Lesley Vainikolo: Wikis


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Lesley Vainikolo
Umaga en Chicago.jpg
Personal information
Full name Lesley Vainikolo
Date of birth May 4, 1979 (1979-05-04) (age 30)
Place of birth Nukuʻalofa, Tonga
Height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight 16 st 9 lb (106 kg)
Nickname The Volcano
King Lesley
School De La Salle College (Auckland)
Rugby league career
Position Wing
Professional clubs Caps (points)
National teams
1998-2005 New Zealand 12 (56)
Rugby union career
Current status
Position(s) Wing
current team Gloucester Rugby
Playing career
Position Wing
Clubs played for
Years Club / team Caps Points
Professional / senior clubs
2007-present Gloucester Rugby 39 (95)
National team(s)
2007 - England 5 (0)

Lesley Vainikolo (born 4 May 1979 in Nukuʻalofa, Tonga) is a dual code professional rugby football player for Gloucester Rugby. He plays on the wing.

He previously played rugby league in Australia for the Canberra Raiders of the National Rugby League and more recently in England for the Bradford Bulls of Super League. Vainikolo has also played on several occasions for New Zealand Kiwis at international level, including several Rugby League Tri-Nations appearances. As in rugby league, his position in union is wing. He represented England Rugby Union in the 2008 6 Nations.


Childhood and early career

Vainikolo grew up in South-West Auckland playing rugby union but switched to rugby league as he explains, "I first got into rugby league when I was 11. One of my mates got me into it. His team were short on numbers and my mate asked if I wanted to play. I grew up playing union, so I had the basic skills. I played the game and absolutely loved it. And I've been hooked since." Vainikolo played for the Mangere East Hawks in the Auckland Rugby League competition.

He attended De La Salle College and holds the school's 100m record of 10.90s.[1] Vainikolo ran the 100 metres in 10.6 seconds in qualifying for the 1998 World Junior Athletics Championships.[2]

Personal life

On December 18 2008, Vainikolo was arested and charged with causing grievous bodily harm after being accused of assaulting a man in a fight outside a nightclub in Bath, Somerset.

A man in his 20s was taken into hospital with head injuries after the incident outside the Second Bridge nightclub on October 26. After first being thought to be in a "critical" condition, the man was later discharged. He was questioned by police but later released.

A statement from a spokesman for the Gloucester Rugby club said Vainikolo had not been suspended and there was "no reason" for the star to miss the next match. The statement also said "Lesley vigorously contests this allegation and, as demonstrated this season, remains completely focused on his rugby and will not allow this matter to distract him" [3].

Rugby League


Canberra Raiders

Vainikolo had two big league heroes when he was younger - Allan Langer and Mal Meninga. So when Vainikolo received a call from Mal Meninga to join the Canberra Raiders, he had no hesitation.[1] Thus, in 1998, Vainikolo began his professional rugby league career for the Canberra Raiders in the Australian National Rugby League competition. In his first season for the club, he was voted as the Canberra Raiders' rookie of the year. While playing for the Raiders, Vainikolo was dubbed by Australian rugby league commentator Peter Sterling as 'The Volcano'. The reason for this is because Sterling found the player's surname difficult to pronounce and shortened it to "Volcano" and he has been called this nickname ever since.

Bradford Bulls

Vainikolo made his debut in the 2002 World Club Challenge against the Newcastle Knights in January. However, his first season with the club in 2002 was disrupted by injury. He scored only 13 tries in 24 appearances. In his second season with the club he scored an impressive 28 tries in 32 appearances. He was voted as the best rugby league player in the world in 2003. He lived up to that accolade in the following season by breaking the Super League try scoring record by scoring 36 tries in only 26 appearances, including five hat-tricks.

Again in 2005, his season was disrupted with injury, although he still managed to score a remarkable 34 tries in 23 appearances. During the 2005 rugby league season his contract was due to expire at the end of the season and Vainikolo received what he says was "a very big offer"[4] from Gloucester Rugby Club, who play in the leading English rugby union competition the Guinness Premiership. However, Vainikolo declined the offer and decided to remain with the Bradford Bulls until the end of the 2009 Super League season. After signing the contract, Lesley Vainikolo's coach at the time, Brian Noble stated "Lesley is a world-class player and was in big demand from both union and league clubs. To manage to keep him in rugby league says a lot for the sport and also the Bradford Bulls."[4] At the end of the 2005 season, Vainikolo had scored a remarkable 112 tries in 105 appearances for the Bulls.

On 15 May 2007, it was confirmed by Bradford Bulls that he was to leave the club and join Union side Gloucester Rugby Club.[5] Vainikolo spoke about his move saying: "First and foremost I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone connected with Bradford Bulls - including my team-mates, the staff and all the supporters - for making the last five years so memorable.

"Bradford is my home and I know I'll be back. I'm determined to go out on a high and want to contribute as much as possible over the next six weeks before I make the switch."

His last match at Odsal was on 17 June 2007 against Hull, a 34–8 win. Hooker Terry Newton took the limelight with four tries but Vainikolo was allowed a parting shot when he was given the chance to convert a last minute try from regular goal-kicker Paul Deacon; the first shot of his career and his only two-point score for Bradford Bulls.

Vainikolo's last match in Super League was against the Bulls' most fierce rivals Leeds Rhinos at Headingley on 29 June 2007, he scored the opening try in a 38–14 win for the Bulls, leaving his Bradford Bulls career statistics at 152 games, 149 tries and 1 goal.

In August 2007, he was named in Bradford's Team of the Century.

International Rugby League career

Vainikolo made his first international appearance for the New Zealand national rugby league team in 1998. He has scored fourteen tries in twelve appearances for his nation, including nine tries in the 2000 Rugby League World Cup.

He was ruled out of both the 2005 and 2006 Rugby League Tri-Nations series through injury. He has had major surgery on his knees over recent years.[6][7][8][9][10][11]

Rugby Union

Gloucester Rugby

In 2007, Vainikolo signed a three-year deal with rugby union premiership side Gloucester who finished top of the Guinness premiership in 2006/07. Gloucester head coach, Dean Ryan, was delighted with the new signing of Vainikolo. He will aim to add plenty of power and pace to the Gloucester back division.

Vainikolo is the fourth Bradford Bulls Player to have joined Rugby Union in the last 6 years after Tevita Vaikona joined Saracens, and Henry Paul and former team-mate Karl Pryce who also joined Gloucester Rugby.

Vainikolo scored five tries on his debut for Gloucester against Leeds Carnegie on 16 September 2007, proving his ability to score tries in either code.

Vainikolo was top try scorer on a number of occasions throughout the 07-08 Season but finished joint 4th with Worcester wing Miles Benjamin with a total of 9 tries

He scored against Leeds Carnegie (5), Harlequins (2), Worcester Warriors (1) and Saracens (1)

The Barbarians

Vainikolo was selected for the Barbarians squad and played 2 matches against a Belgium x/v in Brussels and against Ireland at Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester. He scored a try against Belgium and played well against Ireland but was not selected in the 22 to face England at Twickenham for the Gartmore Challenge.

International Rugby Union career

As a union player, Vainikolo was eligible to play for Tonga by birth, New Zealand by parentage or England by residence. He has applied for a British passport and was included in the English squad for the Six Nations Championships in 2008. He has already qualified under residency rules and has not played representative rugby at any level for Tonga, rejecting the chance to play in 2007 Rugby World Cup so that he could play for his adopted nation.[12][13]

Vainikolo is being backed to be a success from all quarters. Henry Paul, who enjoyed great domestic success with Gloucester Rugby but never reached the same level at International level, believes Vainikolo can enjoy a far greater impact.[14]

He made his international rugby union debut for England v Wales on 2 February 2008,[15] while his second appearance came for England against Italy in Rome on 10 February 2008. He also played against France, also in the Six Nations on 23 February 2008, Scotland on 8 March 2008 and Ireland on 15 March 2008. So far he has played five test matches and is yet to score a try.

He was dropped by Rob Andrew for the England tour of New Zealand, and was left out of Martin Johnson's Elite Squad for 2008-2009.

Possible Return to Rugby League

The Wakefield Trinity Wildcats are interested in bringing Vainikolo back to rugby league when his contract at Gloucester ends in May, he is also eyeing a move to French or Italian rugby union.[16]


On December 18, 2008, Vainikolo was charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent after allegedly becoming involved in a street brawl outside a nightclub in Bath and appeared before the Magistrates Court on January 2, 2009.[17] He was proven not guilty.

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b "Bradford's Volcano talks rugby league!". BBC Sport. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sportacademy/hi/sa/rugby_league/features/newsid_3480000/3480129.stm. Retrieved 2006-06-24. 
  2. ^ The Times, 1 May 2007
  3. ^ England Rugby's 'Volcano' Charged
  4. ^ a b "Bradford boost as Vainikolo stayes". BBC Sport. 2005-03-22. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_league/super_league/bradford/4370853.stm. Retrieved 2006-06-24. 
  5. ^ Bradford Bulls Official Website
  6. ^ "Lesley Vainikolo in league of his own for both brain and brawn". The Times. 2008-01-10. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/rugby/article3162518.ece. Retrieved 2008-01-11. 
  7. ^ "Vainikolo to miss British matches". BBC Sport. 2004-10-20. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_league/3760606.stm. Retrieved 2008-01-11. 
  8. ^ "Vainikolo surgery angers Kiwis". The Telegraph. 2005-10-24. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/sport/2005/10/25/slfish25.xml. Retrieved 2008-01-11. 
  9. ^ "Kiwis still hope to have 'Volcano'". NZ City. 2004-10-21. http://www.rugbyleague.co.nz/news.asp?id=44240. Retrieved 2008-01-11. 
  10. ^ "Vainikolo hopeful of avoiding knee surgery". Telegraph & Argus. 2006-02-27. http://archive.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/2006/2/27/185452.html. Retrieved 2008-01-11. 
  11. ^ "Rugby League: Knee Forces Lesley Out". The Guardian. 2006-03-03. http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/3-3-2006-90303.asp. Retrieved 2008-01-11. 
  12. ^ "England to Fast Track Vainikolo". BBC Sport. 2008-01-09. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/english/7179403.stm. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  13. ^ "Vainikolo tipped as England star". BBC Sport. 2008-01-09. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/english/7179403.stm. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  14. ^ "Paul backs Vainikolo to sparkle". The Press Association. 2008-01-10. http://ukpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5gQve4DtaBcP0oVJp9Pf-JUllBhLw. Retrieved 2008-01-11. 
  15. ^ "Vainikolo called into starting side". Fox Sports. 2008-02-06. http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,23171825-23217,00.html. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  16. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2010/jan/18/wakefield-trinity-lesley-vainikolo
  17. ^ "Lesley Vainikolo charged with grievous bodily harm after Bath street brawl". Times Online. 2008-12-18. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/rugby_union/article5365522.ece. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 

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