Thomas Leuluai admitted to great disappointment with how his time as a Wigan Warriors player came to an end but is taking solace from his belief that “the future is very bright” at the club.
Wigan were unable to send off the departing Leuluai with a Grand Final, as Leeds Rhinos triumphed in Friday night’s semi-final.
It meant that game was the last of the halfback’s twelve years as a Warriors player, before he joins their coaching staff under Matt Peet from next season.
Leuluai first came to Super League with London Broncos before joining Wigan in 2007, and bar a four-year spell back with first club New Zealand Warriors, he has been at the DW Stadium ever since.
The 2008 World Cup winner will get one final runout for the Kiwis in a friendly next month – coincidentally against Leeds – but he has come to terms with his career being over.
“I’ve been playing for a long time; it hasn’t snuck up on me, has it?” said 37-year-old Leuluai of the end of his 20 years in the professional game.
“I knew it was coming. Matty asked during the week if I was nervous and I wasn’t. I just wanted to play well and perform.
“It’s a bit disappointing in that sense. It’ll sting for a few days but I’ve learned to get over it. I think it has sunk in (that it’s the end).”
Leuluai says that dejection of the Leeds defeat is mitigated by knowing things are heading in the right direction at the club, after winning the sixth major title of his Warriors career with the Challenge Cup earlier this year.
“I’m still proud of the group. I’ve had worse losses than this,” he said.
“We came up against a really good team, so I’ve got to give credit to them. Leeds were fantastic.
“But I’m proud of how we kept trying and never gave in. The future is very bright here and that gives me a bit of pleasure.
“Matty deserves a massive rap for what he’s been able to do this year with the group.
“I’m now looking forward to the new challenge as a coach. It’s something I’ve thought about for a while and I know Matty is going to help me out a lot.”
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