Christian Leali’ifano Discusses His Remarkable Journey That Has Led Him To Ulster
Brave is an understatement.
Christian Leali’ifano recently signed a deal with Ulster, but the story behind how he has ended up in Ireland is truly remarkable. In August 2016 his career was put on hold after he was diagnosed with leukaemia.
A regular in the Brumbies and Australian set-ups up until this, suddenly his focus wasn’t fighting for his place in those respective teams, it was on fighting for his health and his life.
Several months of chemotherapy followed, along with a bone marrow transplant from his younger sister. On July 21st 2017, Leali’ifano made his return to rugby. Now, after missing the entire Super Rugby season, he’s signed for Ulster with a goal to get his career back on track.
Speaking to The42, Leali’ifano tells his incredible story.
“I lost 14 kilos in 13 days and it was a tough period working back up, getting back to the weight, getting back to full strength and running fitness,” Leali’ifano said
“There’s been a lot of people to thank and credit for that. Being in a (rugby) structure definitely helped with the process.
“It was tough. I look back now and I’m quite proud. It’s hard, you never want to pat yourself on the back or anything, but to think of the journey I’ve had, and being here today, it’s something that I’m truly grateful for.
“There’s other people put the work in, and you owe them to put the work back out if that makes sense. It’s tough but rewarding to be back in a position to be playing rugby.
“All I could do was enjoy each day for what is was, and be positive whatever the day throws at you. You never know, tomorrow could finish you and you’re six feet under.
“That’s my approach. Rugby was the end goal but I wanted to take each day and maximise each day.”
While getting back on the rugby pitch was always a goal, getting healthy and being there for his family was always going to come first.
“I said all along my health was number one, just to get back to be a father and a dad to my little boy, that was number one, and being able to play rugby again is an absolute bonus,” he continued
“I’m grateful every day that I get to step out again and do what I love doing while I can, and the opportunity that I have now, really, really stoked.
“I’m humbled that a team still values what I can produce and what I can do, that’s exciting.
“To think that you probably couldn’t play rugby again through that time is definitely hard, and then to be able to come through the other side is truly rewarding. To know you can pull a jersey on again and do some gym work and throw the footy around with the guys is rewarding.”