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Thread: Lealiifano puts family first in decision to trade Canberra for Japan

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    Lealiifano puts family first in decision to trade Canberra for Japan

    Today at 9:07 AM Super Rugby
    by RUGBY.com.au staff


    Christian Lealiifano will go down as one of the Brumbies' greatest players, coach Dan McKellar said after the skipper announced a looming move to Japan.

    Lealiifano will leave the ACT side and head to the Japanese Top League in 2020 after 12 seasons with the club.
    The flyhalf was offered a new deal to stay with the Brumbies but in the end, Lealiifano said, the Japanese deal was too difficult to ignore.

    "Dan (Brumbies coach Dan McKellar) sat down and offered me another contract extension and I had to look at that and I had to factor in all my goals for the next little while and think about my family," he said.

    "Then I got an offer from Japan as well (and it was) probably too hard to turn down with my young boy and my wife and not getting any younger as well, so I thought it was time to think about them rather than myself.

    "A really difficult decision - it took me a long time to be comfortable with it and Dan and myself had plenty of conversations going back and forth and that's something I'm grateful for - the support that Dan gave me through that and the whole club gave me the time that I needed."

    Lealiifano is one of the most revered Brumbies players in recent times and McKellar said he would go down in Brumbies history in the same conversation as players like George Gregan, Stephen Larkham and Joe Roff.

    "For me to work so closely with "Bruz" (Lealiifano) over the last two years has been a real pleasure and I think just the person as well, the character, very selfless, just cares about others," he said.

    "When we were having the conversations about his future, he's always thinking about the Brumbies and others and the players that he'd be leaving behind and that sort of thing, I think it was time Christian made a decision for him and his family and we're really comfortable with that.

    "We're grateful for what he's brought to this club and he'll be a legend. We talk about Larkham, Gregan, Roff, these guys.

    "Bruzzy's right up there."

    While Lealiifano has long been a fan favourite in Canberra, the regard in which he was held only elevated after he worked his way to a remarkable rugby comeback after being diagnosed with Leukaemia in 2016.

    He didn't simply become a regular Brumbies player, though - his form has been so impressive this season that he made his first appearance at a Wallabies camp in nearly three years.

    Asked to reflect on his journey at the club, Lealiifano pointed t to the relationships he has built as opposed to any on-field exploits, a sign of the character of the playmaker.

    "Not really, there's plenty there, which I'll probably reflect on in my time," he said.

    "The friendships I've made and the support of the fans and playing at Canberra Stadium is something that I'll cherish forever and go day to day to work with this group of men is something I'll cherish as well.

    "It's something I'll reflect on later in my career and at the end of all this, hopefully we'll be holding a trophy and having a few beers.

    "Then you get to reflect but there's nothing that stands out at the moment.

    The Brumbies have a chance to send Lealiifano and a handful of other departing players out on a high as they embark on their Super Rugby finals campaign this weekend.

    McKellar admitted the sense of an era ending in some ways was an extra driver for the group.
    "It is a motivation," he said.

    "We speak a lot as a group about creating memories and Christian spoke about friendships and all the things that you get out of being at this club off-field and I think that's really important.

    "I think there's genuine motivation there to enjoy the next three weeks and have some special moments in the dressing sheds, share it with their families and friends and the supporters and create a little bit of history."

    McKellar said he was confident that the next generation would be able to fill Lealiifano's shoes, despite the void he would be leaving.

    "I think one thing we've done really well and it started at the back end of Steve Larkham's time here is developing our leaders," he said.

    "I think when Christian got sick, we lost a couple of other senior players at that point in time.

    "As a club, we realised there was a bit of a hole around leadership and developing our leaders and that's something that we've invested in.

    "We've got a group in the background of emerging leaders who we're working with - we've got our own current leadership group as well so I think we're in a good place now.

    "If you looked back a couple of years ago we probably weren't but now there's guys that are ready to step up and take over.

    "And then the other side of it from a football point of view is our academies, our pathways programs, we've got a lot of quality young footballers, who the general public won't know a lot about at the moment but I think over the next 12-18 months you'll get to know the likes of (Noah) Lolesio, (Bayley) Kuenzle, Mack Hansen.

    "They have been in our program for a period of time now and I'm going to back them to take over."

    https://www.rugby.com.au/news/2019/0...ies-lealiifano

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    Can't blame him for taking the opportunity. This World Cup will probably be his last (he turns 32 during the RWC, so would be 36 next time round) and he's certainly put his time in for Australian rugby (nearly 150 games for the Brumbies).

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