You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
Leilani Latu : Digital Image by Robb Cox ©  :NSW Cup Rugby League - Panthers V Norths at Carrigton Oval, Bathurst. Saturday March 14th 2015.

He's the Panthers player that fans have been craving for years – someone with a bit size, a bit of grunt, a bit of attitude. Someone that opposition players are afraid to play.

Whether 22-year-old front-rower Leilani Latu can live up to those expectations long term remains to be seen, but his first grade debut against South Sydney last Sunday certainly gave fans a lot to be hopeful for.

In Latu’s first 31 minutes of NRL action, he ran 10 times for 93 metres whilst making 15 tackles – a solid debut for someone who’s walked the dreaded rugby league path of uncertainty.

Before joining Penrith last season, Latu was a member of Canterbury’s Holden Cup side where he suffered a number of serious injuries that almost ended his fledgling career.

“I had some bad luck at the Dogs with injuries. I had to deal with a broken bone in my foot, a shoulder reconstruction and a lot of cartilage had to be taken out of my knee,” Latu revealed to Extra Time.

“It’s been a long journey, at first I thought I’d never play again after I left the Dogs but I’m blessed that Gus Gould gave me a lifeline. These past two years I’ve been trying to give back to him what he gave me.”

While Latu admits it’s been a long, hard road of uncertain moments and recovery, he believes it’s made him a stronger, more well-rounded player in the process.

“It’s been a long journey but also a pleasant one. I’ve made lifelong friends and I’ve felt as though I’ve improved a lot over the past two years with various mentors,” he said.

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.