A whole new ball game for Centurions as they go full-time

Leigh Centurions coach Paul Rowley
Leigh Centurions coach Paul Rowley

LEIGH boss Paul Rowley has been getting to grips with the logistics of managing a full-time squad after 10 years of dealing with part-time players.

The Kingstone Press Championship Champions only completed their season on October 5 but Rowley has already drawn up a detailed training programme ready for the 2015 season.

With the new fixtures already out, the close season would appear to be getting shorter and shorter but Rowley and his coaching team are ready for new challenges.

“It’s like going from running a hot dog stand to a Michelin starred restaurant,” said Rowley when asked about the difference between part and full-time.

“Logistically it’s a nightmare. For the past few weeks I - along with the other coaching staff - have been formulating a timetable.

“That includes booking pitches, getting swimming pools and making contingency plans for when the winter weather’s at its worst and we can’t train outside at all. It’s all about being prepared. The players will have every single day planned out for them. Every day off, every gym session, it’s unbelievably detailed.”

Leigh were last full-time 10 years ago for their one and only season in Super League. Back then, the crumbling facilities of Hilton Park made day-to-day training difficult. The gym was damp and ill-equipped and training sessions took place in all corners of the borough.

Fast forward to 2014 and Leigh’s home is a state-of-the-art stadium with a swimming pool and athletics track next door plus 3G training pitches which even Bayern Munich football team and the Australian rugby league international side have used in the past 12 months.

The contrast is not lost on Rowley who was a Leigh player back then.

Our facilities are as good as anyone’s in rugby league,” he says.

“We don’t have to go to Trafford Park to use a pool or Robin Park to train indoors anymore. It’s a different business entirely.”

The financial reward of finishing top of the Championship and winning the Grand Final enabled Leigh to go full-time for next season.

The majority of Leigh’s squad committed to new contracts long before the end of the season and the club has the kind of stability unthinkable even only 12 months ago. In fact two years ago, Rowley had just eight players turn up for their first preseason session.

Centurions recently signed Featherstone centre Greg Worthington and three more new recruits will be announced this week.

In addition, three players who missed the play-offs because of operations – Tom Spencer, Tommy Goulden and Sam Hopkins – will also be raring to go again.

“It’s exciting and daunting to be working with such a big squad,” said Rowley. “This represents a huge change for the club at all levels – on the field and off it.

“For players who have worked all day then trained all night it’s a huge change. As a part time player you work all day and then train at night. Now players can train in daylight and get proper rest and recovery time. It’s a real culture shock.”

+ Halifax have confirmed the signing of winger Alex Brown.

Leigh signed Brown from Hull KR for 2014 but he struggled to command a place and spent much of the season on loan at one of his former clubs Batley.