Derek Beaumont column: Memorable season? I’ll drink to that!

Reni Maitua is given a guard of honour after his final game
Reni Maitua is given a guard of honour after his final game

So we ended the season the way we started it – with a loss.

We served up our worst performance of the Qualifiers at Headingley but that is not taking anything away from Leeds who deservedly claimed the Bev Risman trophy with a very tough and competitive performance.

Despite having their Super League status secured they were keen to show their credentials against the newly-promoted boys and their defence was punishing at times.

Gareth Hewer took charge of the game. This was the first time we had Gareth since that opening defeat to Batley.

I make no inference from the fact that Gareth officiated over both our defeats, and I congratulate him on what has been an amazing season for him – the highlight of which will have no doubt been his excellent appearance at Wembley for the Challenge Cup.

Despite losing our first and last game it was more about what happened between to me – but more about that later.

I had been invited as a studio guest with Eddie and Stevo at the beginning of the week as they wanted to feature Leigh’s success in obtaining promotion.

I agreed to this despite wanting to just go and enjoy the game with my good friends and club sponsor Gary, Miles, Phil and Ollie from Park Leisure.

I had arranged for Miles’ son Edward and Ollie’s son Charlie to be mascots after their visit to the LSV on their charity bike ride, and had them booked in to dine with me pre-match.

I hadn’t been a studio guest on any of the TV channels so I didn’t really know what to expect although it didn’t really concern me. That said, these days I am definitely more suited to radio!

I decided to travel with the team to Leeds as Laura wasn’t arriving until closer to kick off. We hadn’t celebrated our achievement with any spraying of champagne as Jukesy alluded in his post-match comments after Huddersfield, when he said: “Derek mustn’t have thought we were going to win as there was no champagne.”

To be honest I had just completely over looked it.

I spoke with him about this and we decided we would put champagne on the bus so that if we won the Bev Risman trophy we would celebrate in style – and if we didn’t we would celebrate in private in the changing rooms what had been an amazing achievement gaining promotion without the Million Pound Game.

You can normally sense how a game is going to go by the tempo and atmosphere around the boys before a game which I have to admit felt a little flat.

While we left LSV at 4.30pm, giving us ample time, the journey to Headingley didn’t get off to a good start with an accident on the motorway as we entered it causing a delay.

This was made worse as we entered Leeds as the volume of traffic saw us take 30 minutes to cover less than three miles, which led to an increase in one or two people’s stress levels.

I had to meet up with Katie Millward from Sky for the studio appearance at 6.45pm,

I also needed to get the kits for our mascots Edward and Charlie to them in the banqueting suite.

Now you only have to look at me to realise I am not in good shape at the moment – unless you are referencing a pear!

So heading up eight flights of stairs, rushing with the kits was not ideal preparation for having make up applied.

I delivered the kits and contacted Katie, who met me pitch side after I had got my breath back, coming down in the elevator.

As we headed round to the back of the south stand she explained the studio was in the roof of the south stand and we would have to take some stairs.

Another seven flights to be precise, and what made this worse was that they were open tread and a mesh type platform which continued as a walkway to the roof space.

Now I am extremely scared of heights which I was trying not to make known as we headed up the stairs and along the gangway.

I am not sure why I was sweating the most – the additional flights of stairs or the genuine fear shaking in my legs.

I was greeted by Stevo, who I have to say immediately made me very relaxed and welcome, having a good chat about Leigh and various aspects and opinions of the game whilst Eddie was largely rehearsing.

Now you know how you form an opinion of what you think something is going to be like? Well, what I walked into was nothing like the glamour I had envisaged being associated with TV.

We were essentially in a tiny hut with bright lights shining on us and three cameras that you could reach out and touch.

There were two monitors down in front so you could see what the viewers could.

The call came from Eddie that we were live. As he did some last minute touch ups from the makeup lady and a mirror in front of you to check your tie. This was it – the night was about to begin and I had no idea what kind of questions I was in for.

To be honest I am always relaxed about that normally as I am speaking about something I know about, am passionate about and truthful about so there is no concern but this felt a little different.

I needn’t have worried as the guys were great and I think Leigh came across really well in the feature done by Angela Powers.

Although it wasn’t what I had thought it would be I really enjoyed the experience and got to see just how much goes into what those guys and girls put together.

I was escorted to a gate leading me under the South stand and I tell you what whilst nobody breathed a word to me or even possibly noticed me let alone know who I was that area was extremely intimidating.

It was packed to the rafters and I remember thinking at the time I bet it is awesome to be in the middle of that, as a Leeds fan of course.

I was told to step onto the pitch side to walk back but not to walk across the pitch. This led me to walk behind the sticks where the massive following of Leigh fans were congregating.

As I did so I received a really welcomed applause and my hairs stood up on the back of my neck as I heard the chants of. ‘He’s one of our own Derek Beaumont!’

I applauded the fans above my head all the way back to my seat. They have been truly amazing all year and to see so many make the trip on a Thursday night just speaks volumes for their commitment to this team.

I was buzzing to be honest and looking forward to what I knew would be a hard fought game of rugby but one I was quietly confident we could win.

Whilst the game got under way and didn’t quite live up to my expectations the atmosphere certainly did.

I must confess I do like the ‘marching on together’ chant of the Leeds fans and they certainly below it out from those sheds.

Our fans were having a great time despite being behind and were vociferous themselves.

As half-time came it was an opportunity to grab that first beer which I did before having a friendly chat with Gary Hetherington who was complimentary of our club and welcoming of us to Super League, which was very nice of him.

Although I didn’t witness it as I was in the studio, I believe the Leeds fans clapped our boys onto the field as they came out to warm up and that shows the class of their club.

As the second half progressed and we slipped further behind I remember conceding within that it wouldn’t be our night. I felt a bit flat.

My plastic cup was empty and so was my emotional energy.

Then I remembered the can of my favourite strong beer in my bag.

Whilst the conversion was being taken, I nipped in the changing room, cracked it open and filled the plastic cup.

Greg Worthington was sat there getting dressed as his evening had ended with a knee injury and we shared a smile over what I was doing.

In the end Leeds had too much for us in a game where we had a really low completion rate and high penalty count and, as Jukesy always says, you can’t beat anyone with those stats.

I really felt for the lads as a great season was ending in defeat and a performance they would be happy with.

I had agreed to do Radio Five Live with Dave Woods at the final hooter although I told him if we won I would be a little late as I would take to the pitch.

As I witnessed the fitting guard of honour to Reni I cut the interview as I wanted to go and enjoy the moment in the dressing room.

As you can imagine it was pretty flat in there.

Jukesy said his bit and thanked them all for a great year and said we wouldn’t be dissecting that performance as it wasn’t about that.

I don’t speak in the changing room as a rule; the only other time I felt compelled to do so was after last year’s Qualifiers defeat by Bradford ending our chances of the MPG.

But it didn’t feel right to feel so low and be so flat after such an amazing season.

I took to my feet and addressed the lads along these lines as I recall: “Listen, let’s not let that defeat be how we end our year.

“We lost the first game and we lost the last but it’s what we did inbetween that we will remember.

“Packing out the LSV against Batley, Being 42-10 up against Huddersfield and beating them.

“Beating Salford who are a top eight team and going to Hull KR and doing something Saints haven’t done there for around eight years and beating them.

“It’s an outstanding achievement and I’m not having us sat here flat of the back of that.

“There are people retiring and leaving this club and we are going to celebrate what Alex Murphy called its greatest achievement so let’s get up and sing that winning song as we have won a place in Super League!”

As difficult as that must have been for them they did and, once the song gathered its momentum and the champagne was flying everywhere, it firmly sunk in exactly what we had achieved.

We finished the song pulling Mike Lathom in, who was celebrating his birthday that day and the lads gave him a great rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’.

As I went to present him a bottle of champagne he must have thought I was threatening to spray him to which he beckoned me with his arms and shouted ‘come on!’

The Leeds folk must have been wondering what was going on having turned us over only for us to have a mighty celebration!

I hadn’t drank a drop of it and, by now, some of you will be getting concerned with my infatuation with having a drink – but some of it was Moet and the lot was empty.

As I boarded the bus, many walked passed it dressed in their turning out gear.

I shouted down and was told they were on it!

‘Mad Friday’ was starting there and then with a night in Leeds; Micky asked where the beer was and I said we would be stopping at a shop.

His reply: “You will be lucky, it’s gone 11!”

I called Mike who was still in the ground and jumped in his car.

My spirits lifted as we approached a petrol station.

He pulled in and asked for a bottle of water. I returned with two to which he exclaimed ‘I only wanted one.’ I know Mike – one is for me, there’s no beer in here!

So there I was, supping out of a plastic bottle of water like a hamster in a cage. To be honest it was surreal and we had a good chat about the game and our general thoughts.

I arrived home at 12.30am, wide awake and decided to watch back the game on Sky.

It had been a disappointing night and I couldn’t really pick myself up. It was a strange feeling to feel like that after the success we had.

I don’t like losing but then again who does?

So on Thursday I keep my promise to the team as we head out to Portugal to watch the MPG in the sun.

I am sure there will be plenty to discuss in this column next week to reflect on that trip.

Unfortunately I have to admit I will be watching it with some emotion as, although I have nothing whatsoever against Hull KR and have many friends who support them, I want Salford to win.

It will be very difficult for them to go and do that being the away team but I think they have the personnel to do it.

It will no doubt be a very tough game with so much at stake and will no doubt be very emotional.

I wouldn’t wish to be involved in that, and for that, I thank Jukesy and the boys – and will continue doing so all weekend!