Only 60 players have reached 100 caps for Australian Super Rugby teams, and this weekend Christian Lealiifano will become just the eighth player to reach 150.
To celebrate Christian’s 150 games and incredible career, we caught up with some of his former teammates. Yesterday, we heard from Adam Ashley-Cooper and Mark Gerrard, who both played with him when he made his Super Rugby debut in 2008, and today we hear from Stephen Hoiles, Ben Alexander and Christian himself. On behalf of the entire current and past playing group we salute you, Christian, and here’s to hopefully reaching 151!
Stephen Hoiles (as told to RUPA):
“Christian was still very new to the Club and very young when I got to Canberra, but there was always something about him. You could tell that there was a fair bit of cheek in him, but his ability to show the right mix of cheek and respect was what separated him from the other young kids at the time. You could always tell that there was something unique about him.
“There was always a lot of hair product early on, and a lot of volume in the fringe. In his first couple of years, he was always paying attention and not saying much, but a lot of that cheek would come out of him on Mad Monday. He would liven up the team on those occasions, he could socialise with the best of them.
“I don’t think I have seen a better example in my time in the game for somebody who could bring the Pasifika players and the Anglo-Saxon players together. He’s the perfect middle-man in an environment where we’re constantly learning about helping players from different backgrounds to feel a part of it.
“I don’t think you’ve ever seen him flustered or lose his temper on the footy field, he will raise his voice a lot but that’s because his job and his position require him to do so. That’s pretty remarkable, especially when he was such a young guy playing a position where the team really did live and die by his decision making and his actions. and one thing that people don’t necessarily talk about as much is his toughness, which has always been exceptional.
“From the day he walked in, he was a leader.
"I left the Brumbies in 2011, and I actually thought he was ready to take over the captaincy at that stage. It didn’t happen for another four or five years after that, but as a young man he carried the weight of the team very comfortably on his shoulders. His contribution to the Club on field has been outstanding, but off field has been twice as big.
“I wish him and his family all the best, it’s been remarkable to watch him play and watch him go through his journey, and that’s not even including his illness. Just to see how he has responded as a player, a partner and a father, that’s been really nice to sit back and watch and you know that he will do everything for his team this weekend.
Ben Alexander (as told on this week’s FOX Rugby Podcast):
“He’s been the heart and soul of the place since Brussy and I were in the Academy together. He’s just the most loving, caring guy I think I have ever played footy with and that just flows throughout the team.
“He represents everything that the Brumbies is about and the story that they’re writing at the moment.
It’s a very special story and hopefully there’s a couple of chapters still to come yet.”
Christian Leali’ifano on reaching 150 matches (as told to Chris Dutton in the Canberra Times):
"The amount of support I've had, and the amount of messages, has been really, really special.
“It makes me feel like I've had an impact here and I'm really humbled by that. I love this team, I love this city and it will always be really, really special to me."
Christian Lealiifano Fact File:
Born: 24 September 1987, Auckland, New Zealand
Super Rugby Debut: Brumbies vs. Crusaders, 15 January 2008 (Christchurch)
Super Rugby Caps: 149*
Super Rugby Points: 961 (21 tries, 191 conversations, 156 penalty goals, 2 drop goals)
Test Debut: Australia vs. British & Irish Lions, 22 June 2013 (Brisbane)
Test Caps: 19
Test Points: 124 (1 try, 13 conversions, 31 penalty goals)
Click here to see who is in the RUPA Centurions Club.