Luciano Leilua asks for immediate release to join Cowboys

Luciano Leilua has asked for a release from his Wests Tigers contract so he can to take up a multi-million dollar offer to join North Queensland immediately.

Leilua’s future has been clouded after months of protracted extension negotiations with the Tigers came to nought. He is a free agent from the end of 2022, and the Cowboys have pounced with a three-year offer worth $2.1 million.

However, the Queensland club is prepared to accommodate the destructive back-rower immediately – taking the value of the deal to $2.8 million over four years – should the Tigers grant him a release.

The joint-venture outfit has already shelled out just under $2 million to secure another back-rower, Parramatta’s Isaiah Papali’i, from next year.

Leilua has been one of the Tigers’ best players during a difficult period for the club. Last year he scored five tries, popped 38 offloads and averaged 112 running metres and 29 tackles per game.

When coach Michael Maguire was under intense pressure to retain his position after a disappointing 13th-placed finish – culminating in a 38-0 loss to the last-placed Bulldogs – Leilua was the first player to publicly speak out in support.

Luciano Leilua is on the move.Credit:Getty

“I’m definitely a big fan of Madge,” Leilua said in September. “When he brought me over here, I was only a 20-minute player. He’s turned me into an 80-minute player. He’s been a big part of not just my fitness but my defence as well.”

Leilua’s brother, Joey, took a different tack, claiming Maguire shifted blame from himself onto the team for poor performances. The Tigers chose not to offer Joey – who is taking on Chris Heighington in a boxing bout next month – a new contract after it expired at the end of the season.

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