Alongside David Clegg, Rob Lui Looks Back Over The Career Which Has Resulted in His Joining Salford
They say that you can tell the calibre of a person by the company they keep, and, if that is also true of rugby players and the standard of those with whom they rub shoulders, then Salford stand-off, Rob Lui is, as we all already appreciate, up there with the best in the world.
The world stars with, or against, whom he has played reads like a positive Who’s Who, with the likes of Benji Marshall and Johnathan Thurston having partnered him at half back, whilst both Todd Carney and Daniel Vidot lined up against him for Sydney City Roosters and Canberra Raiders, respectively, in the NRL.
Although he was born in Townsville, home of the North Queensland Cowboys, he grew up living on Murray Island, one of the Torres Straight Islands, which can be found partway between Papua New Guinea and Australia, but then made the decision to return on his own to Townsville, where he lived with his grandmother.
It was, however, the rather more distant Brisbane Broncos who provided him with his initial love of rugby league, and he well remembers the adulation he had for Steve Renouf, and other indigenous Australian players, around the NRL, all of whom inspired him to take up the game, himself, which he did with his local side Upper Ross Rams.
After they had got over the initial ‘catch and run’ stage, and began to develop positions within the team, Rob was slotted in at centre, with occasional outings at fullback, and, indeed, it was not until his early teens that he was moved to half back.
A change of club, at the age of eleven, saw him join Central Tigers, where the team, in which he was playing, comprised of a number of extremely talented lads, who went on to be picked up by a variety of NRL clubs. Unsurprisingly, therefore, victories came thick and fast, and in fact, they went undefeated for three consecutive seasons, including their Grand Finals, of the four for which Rob was with them.
His own particular talents were quickly recognised, and rewarded with his selection to represent the North Queensland regional side, at centre, alongside four other members of his club side, and this was followed by promotion, at U14s level, to the full Queensland team, which also provided attendance at their training camps for the following four years. Most remarkable was his selection, that same year, for the Queensland U16s side, amongst players two years older than himself.
“That was quite a challenge for me, but helped considerably with my development,” he acknowledges.
At the age of fifteen, he was approached by Wests Tigers, and offered a Scholarship with their Youth setup. Such approaches would invariably lead to considerable family discussion, but in Rob’s case this was not possible as they were all back on Murray Island. It was, consequently, his grandmother’s advice which he sought, particularly as the offer required his leaving Townsville and moving down to the Gold Coast.
“I remember her telling me to take the opportunity whilst it was there, as these things don’t come around often,” he recalls.
And so it was that he left Townsville, and his home with his grandmother, who was given charge of looking after all the trophies and individual awards he had won over his early playing career, to take up a place at Keebra Park College, which was the Australian equivalent of our own sports academies, and where he first made the acquaintance of his good friend, Ben Murdoch-Masila.
Numerous famous players had made their way through the ranks of the college, and Rob, followed in their footsteps, by being selected, aged seventeen, to play at fullback for the South Queensland regional side, against, by the most remarkable quirk of fate, all his old mates in the North Queensland team.
His graduation to the professional ranks of the Wests at the end of two years, was followed, in 2009, by his NRL debut with them, at scrum half to Benji Marshall’s stand-off, in the away fixture against Cronulla Sharks, in which the Tigers romped to victory, 54-10.
“My legs felt like jelly, I was so full of nerves ahead of the game, and I kept going from hot to cold and back again, within minutes,” he confides.
“It was a marvellous occasion for me, though. My whole family flew down to watch, and even my landlady, in Sydney, came to support me.”
Rob’s Journeys Continue Next Time In Part 2