LEIGH fans love a forward with a few rough edges. Tony Cottrell, Tim Street, Mark Sheals ... players with, well, let’s politely call it “spirit.”
The 2014 Centurions squad contains another who could soon end up in the same category of those great names but his route to rugby league was not a conventional one.
When you first hear Jamie Acton speak it’s something of a shock. As a Londoner, his soft, southern tones mark him out from the Northern accents which dominate the Leigh dressing room.
But he is undoubtedly one of us now having committed his immediate future to Leigh by signing a two year contract which will see him go full time from 2015.
“I have got a young small family,” said Acton. “In my career I’ve moved around quite a bit but Leigh is a club where I feel really comfortable.
“As I’m relatively new to rugby league I have learned my trade by playing in a couple of positions - I’ve only been a prop for two seasons. So the last few years have really been a learning process.
“When I was at Workington, there were people like Peter Lupton and Ewan Dowes that had loads of experience who were able to pass on advice to me. The other big thing which speeded up my development was having gametime at a higher level.”
Acton first played league with Hemel Stags as a 16-year-old. His background was strictly union until then. Wigan signed him up for their academy side in 2011 where he became a regular and he also represented England and BARLA at under 18s level.
He made his senior debut as a dual registered player with South Wales Scorpions in 2012 and later that season played for Oldham. In 2013 he was a regular in the Workington Town side, making 23 appearances before joining Leigh in September 2013. It was while at Derwent Park that he caught the eye of the Leigh coaching staff, starring in a surprise victory.
Leigh boss Paul Rowley was delighted to secure Acton’s services for the next two years. He said: “Jamie is something of a late developer into rugby league and is someone I would class as a rough diamond. But we spotted his raw potential playing against us for Workington last year and were keen to get him on board. He is a 100 per cent player.
“Jamie has played second row and centre earlier in his career and though he is now a very powerful front row forward he is also very mobile with good core skills. He is very keen to learn and has quickly fitted into the environment at Leigh. Being a full-time player can only enhance his career and I feel sure he will take the opportunity with both hands.”
The 22-year-old is confident that he can make great strides at Leigh.
He said: “In a full-time environment I feel I have got massive improvement in me and I’m really excited about the future.
“We have such a positive atmosphere at the moment and the fans have really taken to me. Money can’t buy that and every department of the club is fantastic - the fans, the coaching set-up and the backroom staff. Everything about the club is good and positive. You can’t beat the atmosphere when the North Stand gets going, that gets me excited and that’s why you want to play rugby league.”