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Fit and fresh Leilua itching to start 2020 season

While older brother Joey might have stolen the headlines with his starring role in last week's trial against the New Zealand Warriors, Luciano Leilua says his feeling fit and fresh and ready to deliver his best season in the NRL to date.

Following player departures at the conclusion of 2019, the right edge of Wests Tigers was set for a fresh and exciting look in the year ahead, and the Samoan international duo provided just that in their first hit-out together.

With that trial under his belt and his fitness at an all-time high, Luciano says his ready to turn it in to action on the field next weekend.

"The change to Wests Tigers has been really good," Leilua said ahead of the season opener next week. "The boys, the club and Madge have made it a really smooth transition from the Dragons to here.

"It's been a good season for us, and especially me. It's the first I've ever been and I put that down to the work of our Strength and Conditioning Coach Andrew [Gray] — he's been really good with me and I'm just excited now."

With Benji Marshall inside and brother Joey outside him, Luciano delivered a dominant performance in his side's 20-6 win in Rotorua last weekend — chalking up seven tackle breaks, two offloads and a linebreak assist to go with his 24 tackles.

The promising performance from a new-look right edge that also saw winger David Nofoaluma score two tries has given him a confidence-boost heading in to Round 1.

"I think starting in the trial was good, especially for me and my fitness," Leilua reflected. "Getting a chance at that starting spot is what I wanted and why I came here. 

"I'm really excited and know it'll be good.

"Getting a chance at that starting spot is what I wanted and why I came here."

Luciano Leilua

"I think everyone’s excited for that right side and I am especially, playing outside Benji and inside my brother. I think as a right edge we’ve just got to focus on our defence but our attack will come naturally."

Donning new colours for the first time since his NRL debut in 2016, the younger Leilua brother also said his representative debut last year for Samoa — alongside several of his new teammates — has him ready for his best year yet in 2020.

"I think every representative team you makes is good — especially for me to be in that Samoan camp was a good experience," he said. 

“Being with some of the elite players there and getting to know them was really good. Coming off the back of that was a good experience and now it’s time to rock and roll into the new season.”

By no means a senior head as a 23-year-old with 43 first-grade games to his name, Leilua said he has also been impressed with the club’s crop of emerging talent — highlighting young centre Tommy Talau as a prospect to keep an eye on.

“Tommy Talau’s a real standout when he’s playing consistent footy," Leilua enthused.

"I think he’s going to be a really good player.

"I’ve just told him to be patient and, I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true. You don’t want to come into first grade and not be ready. I said that no matter when you’re going to play, you've just got to work hard and be ready.”