Leeson Ah Mau proudly displays heritage

RUGBY LEAGUE

To understand Leeson Ah Mau you just have to look at the ink sprawling down his left arm. Or the tattoo enveloping his right wrist.

Just another NRL player branding tough stickers which, upon deeper inspection, seem to mean nothing at all?

"My tattoos represent where my parents come from," the softly-spoken Ah Mau confesses, rubbishing the aforementioned theory.

"The Chinese writing represents my dad's heritage and it shows I'm proud of where my parents come from."

And it helps you understand why the youngest of four children left home in New Zealand after spending years in the Warriors system. Just for the chance to one day share an NRL field with his older brother, Isaak.

They managed to do it. Only four times. No more. Yet to Leeson it was worth every single Skype call back home and manufactured meal in Townsville as he and Isaak combined at the Cowboys.

"I'm the youngest in the family so, for me personally, it was really hard leaving mum and dad at that age [20, to go to the Cowboys]," he said. "Just leaving mum was tough for me. We were skyping every day pretty much and I would call my mum every morning before training."

Now he calls his brother, still living and playing in Brisbane, every day after training.

Ask Ah Mau, finally finding his feet - and voice - at the Dragons after heading into his third year in the Red V, what he misses most about home and he laughs. He hopes the Dragons' strength and conditioning staff aren't around when he answers.

"I really miss my mum's cooking," he enthuses.

Favourite meal?

"It's an island dish," he says, before slightly pausing. "But she's got a lot of specials I try to stay away from which is really hard."

And it's hard to stay away from home, too. It will be one of his first stops when the Dragons head to Auckland to take on the Warriors at Eden Park on Saturday.

Awaiting will be father Isaak, a factory worker, and mother Vaaiga, who works as a receptionist to help fund the ingredients for all those home-cooked beauties. She's of Samoan heritage and helped Ah Mau qualify to represent Toa Samoa at last year's World Cup.

Sisters Vaaiga and Lily will also be there at home. And then there are all those cousins who will be at the ground hoping the gentle giant bearing the Red V can do the family proud. It will be just the second time Ah Mau has returned to Auckland for an NRL game.

"For me personally it will be pretty big," Ah Mau says.

"Playing in front of my parents and family again . . . I'm looking forward to it.

"I played with all of [the Warriors boys in juniors] and I get a text every now and again from the boys. It will be good to see them, too.

"We all grew up in the same area and get along pretty well."

Good enough to exchange a bit of banter during the week?

"Probably not," Ah Mau says. "We'll try to stay away and focus on our training."

Maybe afterwards they can compare notes on tattoos . . . over a home cooked meal or three.

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