Tigers star’s Christmas hospital scare
Luciano Leilua spent Christmas Day in hospital with the Wests Tigers recruit battling a severe infection. Leilua was hospital bound for six days before finally being released on Boxing Day after being diagnosed with shingles.
Initially it was feared the 23-year-old had meningitis as he battled severe sweats, high temperatures and chills.
Leilua began to feel unwell on the second last day of the Tigers pre-season and it wasn't until he was urged by his partner to take himself to St George Hospital he learnt the full extent of his ailment.
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"I didn't think much of it at the last day of training when we were training at the beach," Leilua said.
"But I got really crook on the Saturday and checked myself into hospital after training. It was painful. I don't know how I got the infection. I was struggling at hospital.
"I was really scared. They thought it was meningitis. That got me worried. My partner told me 'That's it' and I sent me to hospital.
"I was showing some really bad symptoms. I wouldn't have gone to hospital if it wasn't for her. Christmas was OK. I had my family there. My partner's family and my partner came. It was a different type of Christmas."
He was told not to do any physical activity for a week before joining his teammates in Brisbane last week as part of a training camp.
Leilua will finish his dose of antibiotics this week. The hospital visit aside, Leilua said he has thrived since making the switch from St George Illawarra at the end of last year.
He still had a year to run on his contract with the Dragons but the St George junior felt his time had come to an end at the club.
"I didn't see a future for myself at the Dragons. It didn't work out for me and where I wanted to go in my career," Leilua said. "I could just feel a little bit of tension that maybe it was not a good idea for me to stay there. I wanted to find somewhere else where I was wanted.
"(The tension was) just around the whole club just where I wanted to go in my career. I thought I might've got too comfortable. Growing up as a Dragons junior, maybe I got too comfortable. I got pushed around in what position I had to play. I want to be one position and nail that."
Leilua was instantly impressed when he met with Tigers coach Michael Maguire before inking a three year deal with the club. He knew Maguire's reputation as a hard taskmaster but felt that's what he needed to take his game to another level.
"When I first met him, I was pretty scared," Leilua said. "I heard a few stories how hard he was but that's what I wanted. It's the best move for me. I'm excited for the club and for me.
"I wanted to come and learn off Madge (Maguire) especially defensively. My attack will come off the back of that.
"At first I couldn't picture myself being in the Tigers uniform. Until we did the team headshots on Monday and the black and orange looks pretty good on me."
Leilua has stripped four kilograms off his big frame and the ball-playing back-rower has identified a starting spot on the right edge. He has reunited with Benji Marshall on that side of the field after playing alongside Marshall when Leilua made his top grade debut for the Dragons in 2016.
"We have a lot of good back-rowers," Leilua said. "Lots of good healthy competition. That's what I love about coming to training every day. Everyone loves coming here and competing. No one is bad mouthing each other, it's all good.
"Madge is pushing me to be that consistent 80 minute player."