NSW prop Leniu ready for fans’ boos after racism saga

George Clarke |

NSW prop Spencer Leniu says boos won’t put him off when he makes his State of Origin debut.
NSW prop Spencer Leniu says boos won’t put him off when he makes his State of Origin debut.

NSW debutant Spencer Leniu has broken his silence on the Las Vegas racism storm, thanking the Sydney Roosters for standing by him when it would have been easier for the club to wash their hands of him.

Leniu said he had no issue with the prospect of being booed in his State of Origin debut for the Blues at Accor Stadium in Sydney next Wednesday.

The 23-year-old’s Origin debut will be just his fourth game since returning from an eight-match suspension for labelling Brisbane’s Ezra Mam “a monkey” in the US.

Mam is part of Queensland’s extended squad, while Broncos teammates Patrick Carrigan, Reece Walsh and Selwyn Cobbo are all part of the Maroons’ starting 17.

The Blues’ Broncos prop Payne Haas played down concerns of a rift between the two camps, insisting he was looking forward to seeing Leniu “kill a few Queenslanders”.

Leniu had yet to address the unsavoury incident until Tuesday, and said he was prepared to have a target on his back from fans and Queensland players alike. 

“With this game, you’ve got to take the good with the bad,” Leniu said.

“I love this game so much, but if I get 10,000 boos and one hooray then I’ll take it. 

“I can only control what I can control.

“Only those in my circle are the opinions that matter to me, and if anyone thinks I’m a racist then it is what it is, I can’t control that.

“I haven’t really been getting too many boos. I played up at Suncorp and it was a pretty good reception there. 

“If I was to give some advice to young people coming up playing footy, it is to know your circle, you’ll know your circle real fast when you go through tough times like that.

“Those in your inner circle are the only opinions that matter.” 

Leniu said he was grateful for the support of Roosters coach Trent Robinson, who went out on a limb to defend the prop’s character and upbringing.  

Spencer Leniu (right) and Roosters coach Trent Robinson (left).
Spencer Leniu (right) is grateful for the support of Roosters coach Trent Robinson (left). (Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS)

The Samoan international said that, given the divisive nature of his comments, he would have understood if he had been shown the door by the Roosters just one game into his time at the club.

“That was a massive thing for me,” Leniu said. 

“I think it would be (understandable) on their end if I had to leave the club, but it’s also on my end – I want to stay for life.

“They put an arm around me and I was just happy to go out there and play footy and repay the faith.

“I’m grateful that I’ve got this opportunity, and I can’t take this opportunity without giving a shout-out to the Roosters, they stuck by me mentally and physically during those eight weeks.”