Brumby's comeback from cancer put on hold

CANCER COMEBACK: A slight hamstring strain has denied ACT Brumbies star Christian Leali'ifano the shot of a comeback against the Queensland Reds after a long battle with cancer.
CANCER COMEBACK: A slight hamstring strain has denied ACT Brumbies star Christian Leali'ifano the shot of a comeback against the Queensland Reds after a long battle with cancer. DEAN LEWINS

CHRISTIAN Lealiifano has the most insignificant hamstring twinge in sports history simply because of what he has overcome to reach Super Rugby-standard again.

What are a few lousy muscle fibres not following the script compared to the inspirational manner in which he has tackled leukaemia to revive his health and rugby.

The former Wallaby will be waterboy rather than playing off the bench for the Brumbies on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium because of the niggle at Wednesday night training in Canberra.

"In our minds (as the coaching staff) he was in but we hadn't told the players," Larkham said of how close Lealiifano had been to a comeback.

More than 25 family members and friends will still be at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night because the niggle scuttled things too late for airline tickets to be changed.

He'd better carry the water bottles like Nureyev and fill them like a master cocktail maker.

The upshot is that centre-flyhalf Lealiifano is now a serious contender to play against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday week to prepare for a role in a quarter-final in Canberra on July 21.

"He's spoken to the specialists in Melbourne about going back to full-time work and they knew what his full-time work was," Brumbies coach Steve Larkham said.

"And they cleared him to do whatever he wanted to do as a full-time professional athlete.

"Obviously, we are 100 per cent guided by Christian (on how he feels) but I can say he's been one of our best trainers for a long time and with that old energy."

This is so much more than a "footy player beats illness" story because of the type of person Lealiifano is and the players he has touched since debuting for the Brumbies in 2008.

"He's a special player with how he relates to his teammates and gives so much of himself," Larkham said.

"He set himself three goals...get back to playing rugby, to play with his brothers in Canberra and now, the third, is to be the best he can be playing at the highest level again."

He is an inspiration to Brumbies teammates but also opponents like Queensland Reds flyhalf and friend Quade Cooper.

"He's been a massive inspiration. Whenever we talk about running out onto the field, it's talk of the fight or the battle ahead.

"His fight was life or death, genuine.

"I would just say to him he's a massive inspiration to me, players he knows, friends and anyone facing adversity.

"To see him back on the field (in two lower level games) is massive reward for his courage.

"He's always been the guy who has always given tremendous energy to pick other players up when teams have gone through difficult periods.

"He's the most selfless guy I know and all the people reaching out to him is because of the person he is."

Reds v Brumbies, 7.45pm; Force v Rebels 9.55pm

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