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Departing prop Spencer Leniu says the “love” he has built with his Penrith teammates will live on, even if his final months in Panthers colours have been laced with subtle digs about him ditching Sydney’s west for the east.
Leniu will play his final game for the Panthers in Sunday’s grand final against Brisbane before joining the Sydney Roosters.
And the 23-year-old’s switch will symbolise the end of an era for the Panthers.
Leniu, Jarome Luai, Brian To’o and Stephen Crichton, who will also leave for Canterbury, have been the heartbeat of Penrith’s emergence as a NRL juggernaut en route to potentially claiming a third straight premiership.
All four are local boys from Sydney’s west with Samoan backgrounds, who have only known success in their time together in the top grade.
Spencer Leniu confronts future teammate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
But Leniu admitted the emotion of breaking up with his band of brothers had been offset by the jibes he had encountered after signing with the Roosters.
“They’re calling me a beach boy and saying jokes about how they’ll see me wearing Birkenstocks or whatever you call them,” Leniu told AAP, while sporting a pair of Nike Air Max trainers.
“I’m like ‘nah, you can take me out of the hood, but you can’t take the hood out of me’.
“Obviously it’s going to be a little bit weird playing against them, but the love we have built for each other no matter where we go, that connection and love will be the same.
“We’ll be more distant than we usually are, but we have a real big love for each other.
“It’s going to be sad to leave them, but they will always be my boys for life.”
Penrith have the chance to earn themselves a slice of history at Accor Stadium next Sunday, when they will aim to become the first side in the NRL era to win three consecutive premierships.
While the Broncos will pose a sizeable threat, Penrith are banking on their ability to rise to the occasion in the big games.
In finals matches over the past two seasons their defence has conceded an average of less than nine points per game.
“All the boys lift when you come to these games and the stakes are higher and you have to find that extra 10 per cent” Leniu said.
“I sit there watching Fish (James Fisher-Harris) and Moses (Leota) and see what they do in that first 30 minutes when they put their bodies on the line.
“I know I have to do everything in my time on the field to make an impact.
“I learned in 2020 to never take a backward step and we’ve stuck true to that from that point onwards.”