Wests Tigers players are confident Joey Leilua will return “twice the player” after a stern chat from coach Michael Maguire prompted an emotional apology from the star centre who was “almost in tears”.
Leilua drew the ire of the NRL community when he decked Penrith’s Dylan Edwards with a high swinging arm off the ball, sparking a scuffle and earning a sin-binning just before full-time.
The centre was slapped with a four-match ban for his behaviour and left to answer for his actions to the famously stern coach Maguire.
But it has since been revealed that a frank chat with the premiership-winning coach has helped nudged Leilua on the right path, as he fought back tears vowing to restore his teammates’ faith.
“Joey was very upset about it (the tackle),” Nofoaluma told The Daily Telegraph.
“He was almost in tears and you could see that he knew that he did the wrong thing.
“Madge had a serious conversation with Joey, and he apologised to us after the game.
“That is a personal thing for him, and he just needs to sort that out himself.
“We as players can only control what we can, and Joey can do the same for himself.
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“He is a great player and built a combination through the pre-season and we just started moulding, so it is very disappointing for myself not to have him in the squad, but it gives Joey an opportunity to train and appreciate it when he gets back to not have those mental breakdowns.”
On Monday, Melbourne Storm legend Billy Slater hit out at the NRL judiciary for who he believed were “making an example” of Leilua in their four-match ban.
“I understand the frustration of his brother being knocked out and them being behind,” Slater told Wide World of Sports Radio.”Certainly didn’t surprise me.
“This has been a part of Joey’s game for a long period of time. It’s been the part of his game that has let him down. He is such a quality player that he doesn’t need to have these brain explosions in his game.
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“I don’t know that four weeks is going to ram the point home for Joey Leilua. I think it’s got to be an internal punishment from the Wests Tigers and Madge Maguire the coach.
“I don’t believe that it warranted four weeks, the incident itself. I feel that they’re making an example of Joey Leilua.”