The Melbourne Rebels, in conjunction with the Rugby Union Players' Association, have appointed Moana Leilua as their Player Development Manager.
The role, designed to assist with player welfare, promotes and safeguards the interests of the playing squad whilst preparing them for life beyond rugby.
A former team manager with Counties Manukau in New Zealand, Moana arrives in the role with a healthy passion for rugby.
“Dad managed local rugby team City Nawton, and my brother and cousins all played rugby, so it was a huge part of my childhood,” recalls Moana.
“Netball was my sport of choice growing up, having played it all through my schooling years (rugby wasn’t an option in my time). It wasn’t until I moved to Auckland for Uni that I picked up a rugby ball.
“I was fortunate to have represented regionally for Auckland and Counties Manukau and adorned the royal blue for Samoa Manu Sina for 3 years; representing Samoa at the 2006 WRWC in Edmonton, Canada. Following a successful playing career, Moana was determined to stay involved in the code and found herself putting her hand up for some voluntary roles.
“My initiation in working in rugby came through two summer seasons in a voluntary role as the Team Manager with the Counties Manukau Mens 7s team.
“In 2016, on the end of a successful national 7s campaign, I was offered the role as the Team Manager for the Counties Manukau Steelers for the Mitre 10 Cup Campaign and served as the Steelers Manager for four seasons.
Moana’s experience with the semi-professional environment of New Zealand’s domestic rugby competitions, quickly opened doorways to further opportunities.
Before long she was offered a role Kagifa Sāmoa (as part of the Global Rapid Rugby Showcase) and more recently the Black Ferns Development XV.
As the Player Development Manager with the Rebels, Moana works alongside the High-Performance Department in an effort to create an environment where players thrive, feel supported, and grow professionally and personally.
“The modern rugby player is only one of a lot of moving parts; rugby is a sport but it’s also a business too,” stated Moana.
“Notwithstanding the technical and tactical side of rugby, there are commercial commitments, stakeholder and community engagement, the pursuit of further education, coupled with their own personal obligations balancing family life, and being in the public eye with the world of social media.
“The challenges and expectations at times can be overwhelming for the modern rugby player, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and there are measures in place to ensure that players and their families are well supported."
Despite the growing challenges facing players, Moana remains grateful for the opportunity to use the vehicle of rugby as a tool to enriching young people’s lives.
“Rugby has afforded me some great opportunities on the field; being able to impart to the next generation of rugby athletes off field and now across the Tasman is exciting.
“I’m in the business of people, although my career pathway is non-linear, seizing opportunities, having a strong work ethic, and building solid networks, has helped in my arrival into Melbourne as the Rebels PDM.”
Melbourne Rebels CEO Baden Stephenson was excited at Moana's appointment.
"Moana brings a really nice balance of education, cultural and high performance experience to the role. Our Club is striving to do things differently and I am so excited to see Moana enhance and influence our diverse Club environment."