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Spencer Leniu is prancing around the in-goal area, chest thumping and salivating at the prospect of charging in from the back fence. 

It's Sunday afternoon at Allianz Stadium and more than 20,000 fans have turned out to see Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. 

But Leniu has taken centre stage as the Roosters romped to a 30-point victory over the Dragons. 

It may have been Waerea-Hargreaves' day as he became the club's most capped player but last Sunday will forever be known as the changing of the guard. This is now Leniu's team. 

It was exactly the performance Roosters coach Trent Robinson had wanted from the player he specifically targeted to take over from Waerea-Hargreaves upon his move to England at the end of the year.

Spencer Leniu is determined to make an impact in next week's decider.
Spencer Leniu is determined to make an impact in next week's decider. ©NRL Photos

It is also a preview of what Queensland fans can expect to see when Leniu is injected off the bench for the Blues in next week's State of Origin decider. 

"One of the reasons he's here at our club is to take on more responsibility," Robinson told "He likes a challenge and each step he's made throughout his career, he's risen to that challenge. Origin is another one. 

"The crossover with Jared was key for us. They've been able to spend a year together and have really enjoyed their relationship and built that respect between the two of them."

Leniu was a key cog in the Panthers premiership machine for the past five years, playing a key role in the side's rise to NRL dominance and winning three grand finals along the way. 

This year, however, has provided the opportunity to become his own man and take centre-stage at a new club.

Spencer Leniu and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves have formed a close bond as Roosters teammates this year.
Spencer Leniu and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves have formed a close bond as Roosters teammates this year. ©NRL Photos

Leniu is running for more metres, breaking more tackles and making more tackles in 2024 than any previous season. The 23-year-old credits Waerea-Hargreaves for playing a key role in that development and is grateful his childhood idol has taken him under his wing. 

"He's helped me a lot," Leniu told "It's not so much on the field but the things off the field that he does. Everyone sees him as this fierce warrior but within our four walls at the Roosters he's a gentle giant. 

"He's such a good person and that's what I've taken from him. The way he interacts with all the families after games is inspiring, he takes so much time to talk to every single player's family. That's how I see myself in the future, as that person who can talk to anyone's family." 

A State of Origin debut came in Game One of this year's series despite an eight-match suspension that gave him just three weeks to prove to coach Michael Maguire he belonged in the team.

A debut to remember: Leniu

Leniu didn't disappoint, running for 113m as a 12-man NSW side went down to Queensland in the series opener and had an even bigger impact in Game Two.

The prop was injected into the second match in the 32nd minute with his side leading 22-0 and searching for the knock-out punch. Leniu delivered with his second touch of the ball, breaking through the Maroons defensive line to charge 40m down the field. 

While he has thrived in Sydney and Melbourne, Leniu knows a decider in Brisbane is on a different level. But the emerging forward has made a habit of rising to the occasion and he's looking forward to tackling another challenge head on next week.

Spencer Leniu has risen to the challenge in the Origin arena.
Spencer Leniu has risen to the challenge in the Origin arena. ©NRL Photos

"Origin is really hard and it's going to be a lot harder going up there to Suncorp with 50,000 people rooting against you," Leniu said.

"We just have to look each other in the eye and feed off each other's energy. That's what we'll do and I can't wait to embrace it.

"It's a challenge but it's also a privilege. I get to do what I love and I'm going to try my best to do what I do best."

Leniu's ability to swing a game in both attack and defence has not surprised his NSW teammates.

The prop is one of eight current or former Panthers in the Blues squad and he constantly delivered on the big stage during his time at the club. 

Penrith and NSW forward Isaah Yeo has watched as Leniu has grown from a young cub into the rampaging forward he is today and he's glad they'll be back on the same side of the field next Wednesday night. 

"There’s no better sight than that when you’re on his team," Yeo said. "I haven’t had to deal with it just yet [as opponents] at club level.

"I’ve been lucky enough to play a lot of footy with Spence at clubland and now in this arena. I feel like there’s no other prop who can do what he does off the bench.

"He’s got all the ingredients to change the game or if we have momentum keep it and go to another level. He’s done such a wonderful job at club level, now he’s doing it on the big stage in the Origin arena. I don’t think it’s any surprise for me, he’s been outstanding."

Leniu with a huge carry

Liam Martin, meanwhile, revealed the Blues call him 'fireball' and expects Leniu to feed off the hostile Queensland fans at a heaving Suncorp Stadium. 

Last Sunday's performance at Allianz Stadium, he said, is simply the entree before next week's main course. 

"He fires himself up and wants people to fire him up," Martin said. "We call him fireball because he gets going and it's awesome to play alongside. It's not so fun to be up against it. 

 "[The Suncorp crowd] won't faze him and will probably drive him on a bit. He is that kind of player that will lift the intensity and that's why we love him." 

While the past six weeks have been near flawless for Leniu, the prop's first season at a new club started in challenging fashion when he was banned for eight games for using a racial slur in the Las Vegas season opener. 

The youngster, however, had a close circle to lean on and turned to a higher power to navigate the tough times. The 23-year-old grew up in a deeply religious Samoan family and uses his Catholic faith to help him overcome challenging situations. 

It was religion, he said, that helped him get through the dark days earlier in the year and win, lose or draw, Leniu will give thanks to God at full-time next Wednesday night. 

"Without him I probably wouldn't have gotten through some of the times I went through this year," Leniu said. "God's blessed me with a beautiful family. That's my support network, the people who got me through those tough times. 

"I don't go to church every Sunday but I know without him I wouldn't be here today. I pray to him before and after every game, all the glory goes to him."

Acknowledgement of Country

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.