During his breakthrough year in senior footy, Riley Leota had two initials written on his wrist that drove him when he felt tired.
“S.L.” stood for Sofi Leota.
She’s Riley’s older sister and she is overcoming Stage 3 breast cancer.
Sofi’s in remission now, helped by the love of the close Leota family and her boyfriend and Broncos enforcer Joe Ofahengaue.
Riley has been inspired by his sister’s fight as his Intrust Super Cup career reaches its 17th match when he starts in the Norths Devils’ forward pack for tomorrow’s clash with the Falcons at the Sunshine Coast.
“I had Sofi’s initials on my wrist and every time I felt tired, I looked at them and I thought she was going through far worse than what I was on the field,” Leota said.
“She’s in remission now. She’s been inspiring to a lot of people.”
In his own way, Leota’s football journey has inspirational moments.
From his junior days with the Redbank Plains Bears through his years as a two-time best player for Wavell High, Leota has been on a path for senior football.
He made it there after a stint with the Melbourne Storm Under 20s, playing alongside Brodie Croft and Curtis Scott.
In 2017, Leota came to Norths to play colts. He made his Intrust Super Cup debut later that year, making one appearance.
When the Devils made wholesale changes after the 2017 season, bringing in new coach Rohan Smith, Leota remained at the club.
His 12 matches in 2018 showcased Leota’s skills as a mobile prop whose quick hands and feet make him ideal for Smith’s entertaining brand of football.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing under Rohan and I know a lot of our players really have fun playing the way that he wants us to play,” Leota said.
“I’ve been learning a lot and I feel like we are coming together well as a team.”
Leota is only 22 years old and still harbours hopes to reach NRL level.
That ambition is balanced between his work as a concretor and his training with the Devils.
Leota’s days can be long when he comes from a hot work site in the Brisbane summer to Devils’ training.
But the low-maintenance prop is not heard to complain.
He’ll return to the Sunshine Coast tomorrow for the clash with the Falcons, who are coached by his former Under 20’s mentor Eric Smith.
“I enjoyed my time up there and it’s a good place to play football,” Leota said.