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Starting role a major goal for new Chook Leniu

Incoming Roosters signing Spencer Leniu is hopeful a change of environment in 2024 will help him shake off his tag as an interchange specialist and push for a starting role in the front row.

The three-time premiership winner has forged a reputation as one of the game’s best bench weapons over the past three seasons and has come off the interchange in all but three of his 83 NRL games to date. 

But with a move to the Tricolours in 2024, the 23-year-old is hoping to establish himself as a starter in a propping rotation which includes Kangaroos bookend Lindsay Collins and Kiwi enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

“My aspiration is to lead the pack, to lead the team, and a starting role would be my dream,” Leniu told

“I have had that [interchange] role for such a long time and I have felt like I have done a really good job playing that role.

But I’d be lying to you if I said my dream wasn’t to be a starting front rower and that person the team can lean on, that alpha in the pack sort of thing.

Spencer Leniu

“That was a big reason why I left Penrith.

“Obviously it’s nice being in such a successful club and riding that wave and I could have easily stayed there and been comfortable, but I sort of thought that for me to go up another level I’d need to get out of my comfort zone and find a new challenge.

“I have learned off the best front-rowers in the competition which gives me a lot of confidence."

After their fiery clash in Round 15 of last season, Spencer Leniu and Jared Wearea-Hargreaves will be teammates in 2024 at the Roosters.
After their fiery clash in Round 15 of last season, Spencer Leniu and Jared Wearea-Hargreaves will be teammates in 2024 at the Roosters. ©NRL Photos

Having averaged 93 metres per game in 2023, despite playing only 31 minutes on average, it’s likely Leniu would have commanded far more starts had he been playing at a club other than the Panthers, who have established starters in New Zealand representatives James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota.

Penrith co-captain Isaah Yeo said despite his role as a specialist interchange player for coach Ivan Cleary, Leniu has obvious potential as a starter going forward.

“I feel like that is definitely what his future holds, being a starting front-rower,” Yeo told

“Watching him tick over for us at the Panthers in recent years, you could see him growing so much.

“At [different stages] of the year he was getting more minutes, which I think will put him in good stead for a starting role in the future.

“What he does from the bench he does so well, and sometimes it can be hard [to push for a start] when you are bringing that every game and you have the ability to switch a game from the bench.

“But depending on what they do with Jared [Waerea-Hargreaves], I am sure he will be a starting front-rower going forward.”

After taking part in the end-of-year Pacific Championships with Toa Samoa, Leniu – who joins prolific winger Dom Young as the Roosters' major signing – will link up with his new club in early 2024.

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Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.