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Cowboys sign Leilua

Powerhouse second-rower Luciano Leilua has agreed to join the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys on a three-year deal from the 2023 season.

The 25-year-old has appeared in 87 games over the course of five seasons for the St George Illawarra Dragons and Wests Tigers.

Despite his 188cm, 114kg frame, Leilua is regarded as one of the premier ball-playing forwards in the NRL. In 2021 he finished eighth in the NRL with 38 offloads, sixth among all forwards with 68 tackle breaks along with five line-break assists and two try assists.

A Samoan international, Leilua also enjoyed a decorated junior career before his ascension to the NRL. After representing the Australian Schoolboys and NSW under 18s in 2014, Leilua was an immediate star for the Dragons under 20s and was named in the NYC Team of the Year in 2016.

He would make his NRL debut for the Dragons as a 20-year-old in 2016 and emerged as a first grade regular for the Dragons in 2018.

Leilua joined the Tigers prior to the 2020 season and has not missed a game during his two seasons at the club.

“We’ve always been steadfast on our desire to add more experience to our forward pack,  particularly in the edge back row position,” Cowboys General Manager of Football Micheal Luck said.

“Luciano is developing into an 80-minute backrower and he has some tools in his kit bag that not a lot of other players possess. He’s a threat with the footy and he can create for others through his passing, offloading and his ability to break the line.

“We believe he will add a significant point of difference to our attack and will be difficult for opposition defences to plan against.

“We’re also excited about the lessons Luciano can teach our young forwards through his experiences during the early years of his NRL career.”