New statue for Leigh’s popular sporting son

John Woods, centre, with grandson Luke Briggs-Wood, present Leigh Centurions captain Mickey Higham, grandson Rieve Woods and former Leigh coach Alex Murphy
John Woods, centre, with grandson Luke Briggs-Wood, present Leigh Centurions captain Mickey Higham, grandson Rieve Woods and former Leigh coach Alex Murphy

Leigh rugby league fans gathered to celebrate the brilliance of one of the town’s favourite sporting sons at the unveiling of a new statue.

The bronze likeness of John Woods was unveiled to a large crowd of supporters and special guests outside the Leigh Sports Village (LSV).

The statue is in pride of place outside the stadium’s main entrance and provides a fitting tribute to the Leigh club’s all-time record points scorer.

John himself pulled back the covering sheet to reveal the artwork, with members of his family watching the ceremony which took place under glorious blue skies.

Among those in the crowd were current Leigh Centurions captain Micky Higham and club legend Alex Murphy.

Local political figures also showed their support, with eight elected representatives from Wigan Council, including leader and Centurions fans Lord Smith, chipping in money from their Brighter Borough funds to help pay for the statue. The rest of the £30,000 was raised through events and donations from Centurions fans, with prominent members of Leigh’s business community providing thousands of pounds in donations based on their memories of watching the stand-off from Butts Bridge play.

John Woods with the statue

John Woods with the statue

The organising committee, made up of Jason Donohue, Alf Ridyard, Louise Manniex and Paul Hardman, raised the funds needed in just a year and in doing so achieved their target of getting the statue in place for John’s 60th birthday celebrations.

Events organised to swell the total included a 110-mile bike ride to all the clubs John played for during his stellar career and a sportsman’s dinner bringing together many members of Leigh’s 1981-2 Championship-winning side in which John played a key role.

Lord Smith said: “It was brilliant to see such a great turnout on Saturday for the statue unveiling.

“John Woods is a very inspirational, influential character and his rugby legacy will be remembered for years to come.

John Woods is a very inspirational, influential character and his rugby legacy will be remembered for years to come.

Lord Smith

“The sculptor has created a great likeness of John in his prime. Well done to the group for their tireless work in making this happen and we are very pleased to have given our support.”

It was a double celebration at the LSV on Saturday as the statue unveiling at 12.30pm was followed by the Centurions celebrating promotion to Super League with a 42-24 victory against Batley Bulldogs in front of a bumper crowd of more than 10,500 people.