THE hard work starts for Leigh Centurions today as their players return to training.
And for the first time in 10 years, the Leigh players will be full-time as they look to build on their double trophy winning success of 2014.
Paul Rowley’s side lifted the League Leaders Shield and then beat Featherstone Rovers in the Championship Grand Final. They lost only two games all season, one to eventual Tetley’s Challenge Cup winners Leeds Rhinos and enjoyed the most successful season results-wise in the club’s long history.
Leigh boast a playing squad of more than 30 players including the Kingstone Press Championship Young Player of the Year who has been linked with Leeds in recent weeks, much to the annoyance of Leigh’s head of rugby Derek Beaumont.
“I am disappointed at the continual need to dig for stories surrounding Ryan Brierley, who is contracted to us until November 2016,” said Beaumont.
“In particular not only is it unsettling for him, it is also unfair on him as a young man.
“The fact of the matter is whether Ryan’s agent contacted Leeds or not (something he denies to me) Leeds rang Ryan directly, resulting in me speaking to them and it ending there. Any club should only ever speak to another club’s contracted player once permission is given to them to talk with the player. This protocol was not followed.
“I spoke to Ryan about any interest from Leeds which there wasn’t. Ryan has always been honest with me throughout and has made it clear he does not want to leave Leigh and if he did he would have no problem in coming telling me that he did. We have a relationship where he can approach me in that way. He is confident in Paul’s vision for him and the progress he has made.
“He also knows that if the time comes where he has progressed to that level and we haven’t as a club then we wouldn’t hold him back. But I am confident we will all reach the required standard in unison.”
Mr Beaumont added that the same stance applies to Sam Barlow, another player to be linked with Leeds. “I have had further unsettlement surrounding Sam Barlow over the last few days which is also unwelcome,” said Beaumont. “But I don’t wish to go further into that now, as it has been nipped in the bud.
“There are rules surrounding players’ contracts and if they are not adhered to there can be serious consequences. Despite having significant evidence of breaches of these rules on two of my players I am satisfied that my amiable conversation with Gary Hetherington at Leeds will be sufficient so as not to have to involve the RFL on the matter.
“However, I reserve the right in the future should this happen again which I am confident it now will not. I addressed the players at the Players’ Meeting last Friday ahead of us starting back on Monday and made it clear that I will not be entering into negotiations for extending contracts until the end of next season. I will not be entertaining any approaches for my players irrespective of who the club is and how much is on offer.
“The majority of our squad are on two-year contracts with a few on one-year contracts with our option on the second. Contracts must be respected and if they can just be dismissed or bought out there is no point in them.
“We are building something special and to do that we need to plan ahead. The security of that planning is by way of contracts. We have a squad about which we are very excited and nobody is going to break that under any circumstances.
“If I was offered one million pounds for Ryan or Sam tomorrow I wouldn’t sell them. It’s that simple. I have never received a financial offer for either as the amount is irrelevant when you are not prepared to sell.
“While some people think everything has a price. Unfortunately for them my goal of seeing Leigh Centurions achieving Super League status is worth more to me than any sum of money. I hope we are now left to start work where we can focus on our single-minded approach to achieving our goals, the first of which is to have a solid pre season.
“We are all very excited and looking forward to working in a full-time environment which is something we have worked very hard to achieve. Our squad for the 2015 season is now settled and complete and we will announce the final member of the Leigh Centurions squad on or about 1 December 2014.”