Leigh Leopards powerhouse makes return down under to take on coaching role

Leigh Leopards had a fairytale return to Super League last season securing the Challenge Cup and making the playoffs for the first time ever, but ahead of the 2024 season they’ve lost one of their powerhouse overseas forwards.

One of the strength’s of the Leopards that helped them thrive in Super League was that they built a Super League level squad whilst still in the Championship, getting the recruitment done incredibly early whilst then adding key pieces after promotion was secured. Ava Seumanufagai was one of those key pieces with Leigh landing the ex-Rhino in January, just ahead of the 2023 campaign.

Seumanufagai joined on a one-year deal and played 15 times for the Leopards but he hasn’t been handed a contract extension and now returns to Australia, where he has already found a new team.

Despite being just 32 and having played almost 200 games of NRL and Super League level the prop forward will now drop down to the semi-professional game and represent Campbelltown City Kangaroos, joining the side as their Captain-Coach for the 2024 and 2025 season.

It would mark the first step into coaching for Seumanufagai and would be on a similar tier to the Axeman that Sam Burgess coached before serving as South Sydney assistant and then moving to Warrington Wolves.

The Kangaroos confirmed Seumanufagai’s signing and appointment via their Facebook page, with the following statement: “The Campbelltown City Kangaroos RLFC is delighted to welcome former Samoan International and Tiger- Shark- Bulldog Ava Seumanufagai as our 1st Grade Captain-Coach for the 2024-25 seasons.”

The New South Wales based outfit play Group Six so Seumanufagai should stand out as a class above on the field but he’s taking the opportunity to get into coaching, something he spoke about with ‘South West Voice’.

He explained: “The next step in my journey is to follow a coaching pathway.

“I am very grateful for this opportunity afforded to me by the Kangaroos and look forward to coaching and bringing the best out in all of our players.

“I will still play and lead the way on and off to the field.

“I look forward to showing many of our young players what it takes to be a professional footballer,” Seumanufagai said.

Club Secretary Alex Melville beamed about his signing, stating: “This is the biggest signing of any player-coach in Group 6 for many a year.

“Ava is a quality person and player. He has all the attributes to one day follow his ambition of becoming an NRL coach.

“He has chosen to start his coaching journey with our club and our players will certainly benefit from the knowledge and experience he will bring.

“Young players will be very excited to be coached and led by a man of Ava’s stature.”