A dash of pink has been added to the famous blue, gold and blue of the Norths Devils this season in a mark of respect for women of substance.
Leivaha Pulu’s pink shorts, worn beneath his white playing shorts, are a tribute to his mother Crystal who lost a brave battle with cancer early this year.
Pulu wasn’t sure if he would return to football as he mourned the mother of four who raised him and his two younger sisters and brother in New Zealand.
He had left the Devils after last year’s premiership win and returned to Auckland to be with Crystal for a battle he knew she may not win.
“It was one of the toughest times in my life,” Pulu said. “Even now we’re still trying to heal from it.
“My mother brought a lot of joy to many people’s lives and we miss her.
“I decided one way to pay tribute to her was with the pink tights I’ve worn this season. But it’s not just for Mum. It’s a tribute to the many women in rugby league who have faced similar battles.”
Devils centre Jacob Gagan and utility forward Liam Horne have also donned the pink compression shorts this season.
Pulu, 32, is a leader in a Devils team that has made a stunning run to Saturday’s Hostplus Cup grand final against Redcliffe Dolphins at Moreton Daily Stadium.
The Devils lost six matches out of eight mid-season but have since won their last six matches under co-coaches Ben King and Kev Neighbour to move from the edge of the top eight into the club’s first consecutive grand final berth since 1969-70.
“Even when we had some losses, we always stayed together,” Pulu said.
“We just kept on working and we knew things would come together.
“At this club, we’ve built a culture where we know it doesn’t matter if we lose games during the season if we’re still tight and working towards a goal. We’re seeing the fruits of that labour now.”
The Devils’ winning streak has coincided with Pulu’s form surge.
He returned from Auckland early in the autumn and made a delayed start to the season in the Round 3 clash against Tweed Seagulls in the midday sun on the Gold Coast.
It was warmer than Auckland but the outing fast-tracked his fitness along with continued cross-fit sessions away from his league commitments.
Pulu expects similar temperatures on Saturday when he plays his second consecutive grand final along with eight teammates who helped to defeat Wynnum Manly in last year’s decider.
The Pulu family is popular at the Devils.
Pulu and wife Tolina and their four children are among the many young families who brighten Bishop Park.
And a new Pulu is emerging in the rugby league ranks.
Pulu’s eldest daughter Carayanidis is a 13-year-old prospect already turning heads in the junior girls’ ranks. Nidis is part of the Marsden State High School program and showing the promise that has delivered her father almost 60 NRL appearances with the Gold Coast Titans and New Zealand Warriors.
“It’s a lot of fun watching the kids grow up and Nidis does enjoy playing footy. We just like her to have fun,” Pulu said.