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Leuta's OTC Dream Started with Big Changes

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Leuta's OTC Dream Started with Big Changes

David Barpal photo.

Matai Leuta is one of those players who came out of nowhere. The 6-4, 240-lb power runner was one of two players identified in the Men’s 7s Eagles recruitment camp to get invitations to be in residence at the Olympic Training Center. Ahamad Harajly played for the USA team in Wellington before getting more playing time with the Falcons in Las Vegas. Leuta played with the Falcons, too, and now ensconced at the OTC, he is looking to break into the Eagles team.

Leuta and the other recruitment camp call ups, Ahamad Harajly, in action for the USA Falcons at the LVI. David Barpal photo.
Ahamad Harajly and Matai Leuta

Born in the USA, Leuta moved to Fiji with his family when he was about seven years old, and it was then he started playing rugby. He returned to the USA at the age of 16, and has continued to play since then. This winter he was studying and playing the Monterey and South Bay rugby clubs near Monterey, Calif., when he heard about the recruitment camp in January.

He did the rest, but much of what he did to get there happened earlier.

“Around April of 2013 is when I decided to make a change,” Leuta told Goff Rugby Report. “I’ve always dreamed of playing professional but I knew the road to getting there wouldn't be easy. I was a lot heavier than I am now so I knew the first step was to lose weight and if I were able to accomplish getting to a solid size for my height I knew I would be in a good place.”

So he started working harder on his fitness and changed his diet. It wasn’t easy, but he felt it was what he needed to do.

“It's definitely been a long journey getting here,” he said. “But now the real work begins.”

Leuta was studying at Monterey Peninsula College before he got the callup, although his rugby experience had been with the local clubs, and in the summer playing 7s with the San Jose Seahawks. He already had to put his studies on hold due to finances, so being with the USA team under the US Olympic Committee will help him complete his studies, as well as give him a chance to pursue his rugby dream. 

“Financially I was unable to continue, but with being contracted comes its benefits and I'm going to look into what programs are available to us in order for me to finish,” he said. As for making the team, “I have full confidence in myself and my capabilities and I want to do my best in contributing to this team’s progression.”

What Leuta brings to the table is a lot of motivation - he’s been working toward this for almost two years - and size and speed. At 240 pounds he’s an imposing presence, but he can also clock a sub 5.0 40 meters. He’s a young (24) player who wants to finish school, play international rugby, and, if he works hard enough, could unleash some special physical gifts on the circuit.

But it all started two years ago, when he decided that’s what he wanted more than anything.