Spencer Leniu has demonstrated his physical prowess in State of Origin football, as evidenced by his recent clash with Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. During a game on June 10, tensions escalated and Leniu found himself in the midst of the confrontation, unafraid and ready to finish what had been started off the field. Although the details of the exchange remain unknown, it carried a distinct “Me. You. Carpark. Now” vibe. Fortunately, Roosters captain James Tedesco intervened to restrain Waerea-Hargreaves, while Leniu remained steadfast in his resolve.
Leniu, reflecting on the incident, shared, “You know, when you’re in that red [mist] head, you just say whatever.” Emphasizing his commitment to leaving matters on the field, he added, “Whatever happens on the field stays on the field. But if he wants to escalate it, I’m keen too. He’s been there for 10-plus years, if he wants to hold a grudge, that’s on him. I couldn’t care less. I’ll just do whatever I can for the team and cross that bridge when it comes.”
Panthers playmaker Jarome Luai also felt that Waerea-Hargreaves had crossed a line during their physical battle, declaring, “[He] ticked us all off… There’s got to be a drawing of a line in the sand. We’d had enough of him.” Leniu echoed this sentiment, stating that he would never let his teammates be bullied. “In the heat of the moment, I was just sort of protecting Jarome,” he explained. “There were a few incidents that led up to that point. Whatever happens on the field stays on the field. I think it was a good spectacle for the fans, seeing all that stuff instead of seeing the usual week-to-week footy, a bit of beef in the game.”
Interestingly, Leniu and Waerea-Hargreaves will become teammates when Leniu joins the Roosters next year. It remains to be seen if mediation will be necessary to resolve any lingering tensions before the prop makes the move. Leniu mused, “I’m not too sure. It’s a funny one thinking about it, with me going there next year, but it is what it is. I’m gonna do whatever I can to be the best I can be this year to help me get another [premiership] ring, and I’ll just worry about that stuff when it comes. Jared’s not on my mind every week, you know what I mean? I’ve got the best two front-rowers in my opinion, in [James] Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota. I feel if I compete with them every single day at training, then it gives me confidence going in every week against my opposition front-rowers. I appreciate those two boys. They’ve done a lot for me in my short NRL time, and it’s gonna be sad playing against them.”
With New South Wales having suffered consecutive State of Origin series losses, there is mounting pressure on coach Brad Fittler to make changes. Leniu, a two-time premiership winner at just 22, could potentially be a part of a new era for the Blues. When asked about the possibility, Leniu acknowledged, “It’s a dream, and it’s only gonna be a dream until it’s a reality. I’m just gonna put this at the forefront of my mind, these Penrith boys, and try to play the best I can, be the best teammate I can. And if that comes with it, then I’ll be taking that opportunity with both hands. But I’m not really thinking about that, I just want to play good footy for the boys.”
Leniu will have the opportunity to further showcase his talent and state his case for Blues selection when he faces the imposing forward pack of the Melbourne Storm, which includes Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Christian Welch, and Tui Kamikamica. Reflecting on his encounters with Asofa-Solomona, Leniu shared his admiration, saying, “It’s funny, I used to watch Nelson’s rugby union highlights when I was at school. I was sort of buzzing out the first time I played him, seeing how big he is.”
Leniu emphasised the importance of never backing down, drawing on the lessons learned from the 2020 Grand Final loss. “Everyone’s got different roles in each team, and my role is to take it personally against my opposition front-rower,” he explained. “It’s more personal across us front-rowers because everyone’s just trying to be that alpha and try to get that position in the game.”