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'I was a rugby union boy': Happy homecoming for Dolphins star who dreamed of being an All Black

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23rd May, 2024
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When highly skilled Dolphins forward Connelly Lemuelu was in the Auckland Blues system as a No.10, he wanted to emulate his heroes Doug Howlett and Joe Rokocoko and become an All Black.

Now, after following in the footsteps of Benji Marshall and shining at rugby league powerhouse Keebra Park High, the 25-year-old is ready to return to the city of his birth, Auckland, and get one over the Warriors on Sunday.

The Lemuelu story is one of dreams, fate and ability all forging a path to the top in an unexpected way.

“I was a rugby union boy and in the Auckland Blues system when I was quite young,” Lemuelu explained.

[related_category category=”rugby-league”

“I am a massive Blues fan and they had the likes of Doug Howlett on the wing, who was scoring lots of tries, and a winger called Joe Rokocoko who was pretty quick and was from the south Auckland area where I am from. 

“I was looking up to those guys a lot and wanted to be like them when I grew up.

“I got the opportunity to go to Keebra Park when they came over to watch one of the other boys I was playing rugby with over there.

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“They saw me and asked me if I wanted to come over as well. They are a renowned school internationally and with a lot of kids from my area.

“With all the YouTube videos they used to put out about Benji Marshall, we used to watch all that stuff and I jumped at the opportunity.”

Lemuelu played fullback and centre at Keebra Park and fly-half and fullback in rugby. His dancing feet led to him scoring a cracking try in the 24-12 win over Wests Tigers last week.

“I guess it was good to play those positions because I can transfer that into my game in the forwards as well,” he said.

The Dolphins have not lost since Lemuelu returned from injury in round nine.

He injured his PCL and MCL on the left knee playing for Samoa against Australia at the end of last year. He recovered to play former club North Queensland in round one and dislocated his right kneecap and strained his MCL. 

“I had a little operation and it’s my fourth week back this week,” Lemuelu said.

“I feel like I am finally finding my feet and (my teammates) are joking that I am a bit of a lucky charm, but it is good to come into an environment where everyone is doing their job. All I have to worry about is doing my job.”

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Lemuelu, who will play in front of family and friends on Sunday, said he trained with the Warriors under-20s for several sessions when he was at Keebra Park, but otherwise had not been chased by the club.

“They are always a tough side to play at home, the Warriors. They put on a great performance on the weekend against the premiers, so we are expecting them to come out firing,” he said.

© AAP

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