Rob Leota is a powerful forward, comfortable at lock or in the backrow, who brings intense physicality on both sides of the ball.
The Leota family arrived in Melbourne via Samoa and New Zealand and although rugby had a small footprint in Australia’s second largest city, it proceeded to play an integral part in their lives. Leota played his first rugby in Year 7 when recruited into the Thornbury High School side by teacher and local rugby identity Grant Wason. That led Leota into rugby at the club level with Northcote RC. Leota’s physical development necessitated a move from the outside backs into the forwards, a switch that set his career path in the sport.
However, Leota’s journey wasn’t smooth sailing. He was dropped by the Melbourne Rebels academy in his early teens. “I was unfit and not mentally tough enough,” Leota said. “There were times I dawdled during games. I would just stop when I felt pain. I broke down. I wanted to quit but my [older] brother Sili saw something in me that I didn’t. He signed me up for a personal trainer, a guy named Lou. I went to him for two months or so and it changed my mindset.” Leota, on Sili’s advice, called academy coach Matt Tink and asked for a second chance which was granted.
Leota represented Australia at both Schools and U20s levels and in 2016 made his Super Rugby debut for the Rebels against the Crusaders. Injury then proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Leota developed a strong work ethic and noteworthy resilience after he battled back from three injury-marred seasons to enjoy a standout Super Rugby season in 2021. Named in the squad for the home series against France, Leota made his Test debut against South Africa on the Gold Coast.
Leota continues to draw inspiration from a talk with his parents as a 16-year-old. “My dad said I want you to be able to look after your mum as we get older and use rugby as an opportunity,” Leota recalled. “I remember waking up the next morning and seeing the hallway light on and my dad going to work as a welder. It was 5am. Those words influenced my mindset so much and where I am today.”
In 2023, Leota was named as the first home-grown Victorian to captain the Rebels.
2015 Represented Australian Schools against New Zealand Schools (W 32-8)
2016 Represented Australian U20s against New Zealand and at the ninth World Rugby U20 Championship in England.
2021 Leota won his first Test cap off the bench when he replaced Izack Rodda at lock in the 71st minute of the 28-26, first Test win over South Africa on the Gold Coast. He was handed his first start, at blindside flank, in the 27-8, first Test victory against Argentina in Townsville. Leota started all four Tests in the number six jersey on the Spring Tour.
2022 He played in seven of the Wallabies opening eight Tests before a ruptured Achilles, suffered in the first Test, 37-39 loss to New Zealand in Melbourne, prematurely ended his season.