Kylie Leuluai - From Strength to Strength
By Annette Stewart and Shawna Denny
Not many young men’s leaders could bench press three or four of their young men at a time. And not many ward missionaries occasionally have to miss a meeting to play in the Rugby World Club Challenge. But then, not many members are professional rugby players of international renown.
Currently a member of the Leeds 1st Ward, Leeds Stake, 34-year old Kylie Leuluai is a prop forward for professional rugby league team, the Leeds Rhinos. He has announced he is postponing retirement for a year after having initially intending to hang up his boots at the end of 2012. This is good news for fans of the club as Brother Leuluai has helped the Rhinos to five Super League titles and two World Club Challenges since his arrival in 2007.
It’s also good news for the local Leeds congregation as he has served faithfully in the youth and missionary programmes since he came to the UK from his New Zealand where he was born.
Before moving to England, Brother Leuluai had already made quite an impression on the National Rugby League in New Zealand. His ability to bench press a whopping 225 kilograms (496 pounds or roughly 35 stones), is still the heaviest weight lifted by an NRL player.
But Kylie says the mark he’d really like to leave behind is that you can be true to yourself and still accomplish everything you want in life. “I want the young men to know that you can be different and still be you,” said Kylie. “Young men can stand up for who they are and for their beliefs and others will learn to accept them for those beliefs. I want the youth to realize that you can reach your goals through the gospel.”
Kylie, whose first name is actually Hawaiian in origin, recalls gathering at his grandmother’s house with his family as a boy and watching rugby, some games featuring his father and uncles playing. It was only a matter of time before he would join them on the professional field, after overcoming his own obstacle.
“My proudest moment was my first professional game because of all the challenges I had to overcome to get there,” said Leuluai. “When I was younger, I wasn’t too comfortable with who I was. Now I believe in myself. You should never underestimate who you are and what you can become.”
Heeding the advice of friend and legendary former New Zealand rugby union footballer Sid Going (a prominent rugby player and church member who was the subject of a talk given at the April 2011 General Conference by Elder Neil L. Anderson), Leuluai started his career with a devotion to his faith in the gospel and has held strong to it ever since. “[Sid] saw me out one night and told me that if I ever wanted to do well in my sport or make it in rugby I should live the gospel. I have always remembered that and have tried to live that since I was a teenager.”
The light of the gospel and the strength this has brought to his life is also recognized by his club coach, Brian McDermott, who told BBC Radio Leeds: ““Kylie [is] one of those unsung heroes where his numbers are always good. But, more than that, the presence he has on the field is big for us. He's also very good for us off the field as well—some of that leadership that every team needs, somebody to lead from the front and show people the right way to go.”
Brother Leuluai is quick to explain that his devotion to religion has been the cause of his success on the rugby field.
“If it wasn’t for religion, I believe I wouldn’t have anything,” Leuluai told the Daily Mail. “It’s the main purpose and reason behind what I’ve achieved.”
Brother Leuluai is married. He and his wife are parents of three children. After years of playing professional rugby, he will finally retire at the end of the 2013 season and return to the southern hemisphere.