Returning Leniu to make up for lost time, say Roosters

Darren Walton |

Sydney Roosters prop Spencer Leniu (l) returns after serving an eight-match ban for a racial slur.
Sydney Roosters prop Spencer Leniu (l) returns after serving an eight-match ban for a racial slur.

Spencer Leniu is chomping at the bit to make up for lost time as the Sydney Roosters welcome back their prize recruit following his soul-searching eight-match NRL ban.

The three-times Penrith premiership winner hasn’t played since copping a lengthy suspension for a racial slur in the Roosters’ season-opening win over Brisbane in Las Vegas.

Whether or not Leniu feels he owes the Roosters is a question best served to the 23-year-old himself, according to teammate Connor Watson.

But the Indigenous Watson, who took a dressing-room leadership role at the Roosters to address the Leniu saga after the firebrand prop called Broncos five-eighth Ezra Mam a “monkey,” insists Leniu is primed for his comeback against the Warriors on Sunday.

“I sort of haven’t got that deep in it with him but I think he just wants to get back out there and play footy again and probably make up for that lost time,” Watson said on Tuesday.

“Obviously he served his time. We’ve spoken about it before, like he’s sorry for what happened.

“He said the wrong thing and it was disappointing but we’re done now, so everyone’s moved past it and now he’s getting ready to play footy.”

Watson suspects Leniu did it particularly tough during the first month of his ban when “he was getting flogged every day cos he pretty much had to go back and do another sort of eight week pre-season”.

“So that’s always tough but I think he’s excited to play.”

Superstar centre Joey Manu also insists Leniu doesn’t owe the team anything, despite the Roosters losing four of eight games in his absence.

“We’re not expecting too much from him,” Manu said.

“I just want him to go out and just do his role. That’s all we expect from him.

“So having him back on our team is going to be special. He’s just a powerful runner and he brings a lot of energy to his team.”

Leniu’s return coincides with the 300th match for Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, whose boots the former Penrith front-rower is expected to fill in coming years after the Kiwi international retires at season’s end.

“It’s important that we go out and play the way he does and that’s just put everything on the line and play with his heart on his sleeve,” Watson said of the Roosters’ milestone man.

“Honestly, it’s unbelievable how he’s been able to do it for 15 years and play the way he has because a lot of other people would have been broken by now.”

Gold Coast Titans star David Fifita is also reportedly in the Roosters’ sights and Watson reckons he’d also be a great signing post-Waerea Hargreaves.

“I know Dave pretty well. We played All Stars together back in 2020, 2021,” he said.

“Obviously he’s a talent, he’s capable of doing some things that people dream of, like just the way he carries the ball.

“I’ve defended him a couple of times when I was playing the halves and it was definitely a tough day for me.

“So if you can get a player of that calibre, yeah awesome, especially because we’re losing a few players as well.”