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Cowboys star wants immediate exit as Sharks forward closes in on taking homecoming offer

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13th February, 2024
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Luciano Leilua’s days with the North Queensland Cowboys appear numbered after the back-rower’s management requested permission to speak with rival NRL clubs.

St George Illawarra, where Leilua played 43 games across four seasons, are believed to be one of those interested in the services of the three-cap Samoan international.

Leilua’s manager, Mario Tartak, confirmed to AAP he had initiated contact with the Cowboys to allow the forward to return to Sydney with immediate effect.

The 27-year-old is contracted with the Cowboys until the end of 2025 after leaving Wests Tigers for Townsville midway through the 2022 campaign.

The forward has endured an eventful time with North Queensland and was last week fined and banned from driving for a month following a low-range drink driving offence.

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Leilua also faced domestic violence charges in 2022 which were later dropped by NSW Police.

While Leilua’s exit so late in the pre-season may be viewed as a disruption, it allows the Cowboys to set about retaining promising back-rowers Kulikefu Finefeuiaki and Heilum Luki.

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Finefeuiaki enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2023 but comes off contract at the end of this season, while Luki has an option in his favour for the 2025 season.

Prop Braden Hamlin-Uele says he is contemplating his future at Cronulla. Off contract at the end of this year, the Kiwi forward is weighing up a return to New Zealand with the Warriors after leaving home to pursue an NRL career as a teenager.

The Warriors view Hamlin-Uele as a replacement for Sharks-bound Addin Fonua-Blake and are rumoured to have offered the 29-year-old more than $700,000 a year.

But also on the forward’s mind is Cronulla has been home to him for the past six years, with his young family growing up in the area.

“Hopefully (it’s done) ASAP,” Hamlin-Uele said on Tuesday. “I’m in regular contact with my manager to see what the go is. That’s his side of the business, I’m just here to run the ball and tackle.

“If it comes to it, it’d be devastating to leave (Cronulla). But it would also be exciting to see what’s on the other side.”

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