“I still haven’t watched my first grand final, either. I don’t want to watch them because it burns.”
But the same pain is now driving the star Wests Tigers recruit onto bigger and better things this season.
He was convinced by his brother, Luciano, to join the Sydney club and has loved what he’s seen so far at Concord.
“He was the one that said look, you’d be mad not to (come here). My dad was pushing for it as well, but I never listen to him anyway. When you get older, you get wiser,” Leilua said.
“He said look, the club is great. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into but Luciano explained it to me. I said look, I want to try do something special. I want to try and take this club to a grand final.”
Never one to talk down his team or his own ability, Leilua says he has already observed at Concord Oval the foundations of a team which can fight their way to the NRL premiership decider.
“Our ultimate goal is to win a comp. Every single player here wants that. I could see that the first day I got here. And if we really want it, we can get it,” he said.
“Every team has the possibility of making the grand final. It’s just about the want and the willingness to work for each other.”
Playing in a grand final is setting the bar high for a club which hasn’t featured in the final eight since 2011.
But Leilua isn’t just setting a high bar for the team. By the end of the season, he wants to be recognised as the best centre in the NRL.
“Before I got injured (last year) I said I was the best centre going around. Then I had a lot of time off and I came back and there was a bit of frustrations there with the coach (Ricky Stuart).
“All that aside, I thought I was in the best shape of my career and I have to get back to that. I need to do that year in, year out. Stay on top of my game. That’s what I’m planning to do.”
Leilua is expected to start the season in the centres alongside one of Paul Momirovski or Adam Doeuihi, who are fighting for the slot left vacant by Moses Mbye.
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.