Sale Sharks and Samoa centre Johnny Leota has today been named the winner of the third RPA Personal Development Award of the 2018/19 season. The award was created to celebrate the proactivity and off-field achievements of RPA members.
The 35-year-old who has 20 test caps for Samoa, joined Sale Sharks in 2011 and has since made more than 130 appearances for the Manchester club. Johnny has also played for Super Rugby side the Highlanders and made more than 50 appearances for Manawatu in the New Zealand Provincial Championship.
The powerful centre who has overcome a number of significant injuries in his career, including two ACL tears, has been rewarded for his proactivity off the pitch and his determination to further his personal development and prepare for life after rugby.
A passionate writer, Johnny launched his very own online blog to offer advice and support to fellow players facing similar injury setbacks. His blog 'Rugby Yarns' speaks of his experience of rehab, the emotions and difficulties you can face, the stages of transition and why it’s important to keep positive and motivated towards your next goal.
Johnny has also proactively engaged in a number of work experience and vocational opportunities, including teaching PE at local schools, gaining his level 3 personal training qualification and undertaking a barbers course through Trafford College. He also completed the RPA’s BA Business Leadership & Management degree through Northumbria University and recently started his Masters degree in Sports Management and Business at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Johnny has also enhanced his coaching experience by gaining a part-time role with Sale FC in National One and working with the Sale Sharks community programme to mentor young aspiring rugby players.
On receiving the news of his award, Johnny said: "I am chuffed to win this RPA Award because it recognises my achievements off the pitch. How I have prepared for games over the years is how I have prepared for my transition. Analysed what needs to be done and how to achieve my goals. I am grateful for the support of Mike McCarthy and the RPA who have been hugely helpful in allowing me to gain as much experience away from rugby as possible."
Mike McCarthy, RPA Development Manager for Sale Sharks, said: “It’s been outstanding to work with Johnny this season and witness first-hand his dedication and commitment to prepare for a successful transition out of the game. I can’t think of a more worthy winner of this award."
This is the final of three Personal Development Awards to be made in the 2018/19 season. The award highlights a player’s off-field personal development success and is judged by a panel consisting of RPA Non-Executive Director, Joe Ryan, and RPA Alumni Representatives, Chris Bentley and Rob Vickerman.
The RPA Personal Development Programme (jointly funded by the RPA, RFU and Premiership Rugby) is a central pillar of the RPA and provides its members with essential off-field education, personal development, career transition opportunities and welfare support.