Rugby league legend’s statue to be unveiled

John Woods with the statue
John Woods with the statue

Leigh rugby league fans can enjoy a spectacular double celebration when a new statue to a club legend is unveiled this weekend.

The bronze likeness of all-time record points scorer John Woods will be unveiled outside the Leigh Sports Village (LSV) stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Fans can celebrate the achievements of John during his incredible career before heading into the stadium to watch the current Centurions squad play Batley Bulldogs, the club’s first game since being promoted to Super League.

The new statue will be unveiled by John and Centurions life member and former chairman Brian Bowman at 12.30pm, with special guests in attendance including Wigan Council leader and Leigh supporter Lord Peter Smith and Leigh MP Andy Burnham.

The £30,000 needed for the statue was raised through donations from Centurions fans, special events and Brighter Borough donations from local ward councillors.

The unveiling ceremony means the organising committee has achieved its ambition to get the statue outside the stadium in time for John’s 60th birthday and the team behind the idea admits the day they have chosen to reveal it could not have been better.

“He is a very inspirational, very influential character and his rugby legacy will be remembered for years.”

Lord Peter Smith

Jason Donohue, who came up with the original idea, said: “Hopefully we will get lots of people there early to have a look at it. I’m really excited and I can’t wait to see it unveiled.

“It all seems a bit surreal, it was only August last year that I sat down with a few people and we thought about the idea. We’ve raised the money quite quickly and that’s because of people’s respect for John and appreciation for what he did.

“It’s going to be a proud moment for John and his family and also for me personally. I grew up watching John as a kid and he was my hero. He and Des Drummond influenced so many kids around my age and made them want to become rugby league players and play for Leigh.

“It’s fitting that we’re unveiling the statue as the club is celebrating promotion.”

Jason teamed up with Alf Ridyard, Louise Manniex and Paul Hardman to lead the community group responsible for making the statue a reality.

They organised events including a sportsman’s dinner featuring many members of Leigh’s 1981-82 championship-winning side in which John played at stand off and a 110-mile bike ride to the grounds of every club John played for in his career.

Eight councillors chipped in a total of £8,000 towards the fund and local businesses also donated money and materials to the project.

Lord Smith said: “It’s an honour to help with the funding of John’s statue. He is a very inspirational, very influential character and his rugby legacy will be remembered for years.

“I applaud the group for their tireless work in making this event happen and am confident that the statue will help all generations look back at Leigh Centurions’ history with pride.”

John made his Leigh debut in 1976 and amassed 2,492 points for the club in 349 appearances during two stints at Hilton Park.

The statue will be unveiled on the front plaza at the LSV outside the main reception at 12.30pm on Saturday, September 17.