Leigh Centurions could be set to appoint Paul Rowley as head coach.
Following three impressive pre-season victories there has been a groundswell of support for the former Leigh captain and local born player who has been assistant coach to Neil Kelly and then Ian Millward over the past six years.
And with the issue of a visa from the UK Border Agency for former New Zealand International Richie Blackmore creating more delay in bringing the man Leigh seemed to have set their sights upon to help restructure the club for a real tilt at Super League, Rowley is the obvious and highly popular candidate to remain in charge of the coaching reins.
The players are certainly backing his appointment and this is seemingly set to be confirmed this week, but speaking on Tuesday, Chief Executive Trevor Barton MBE, refused to be drawn on the speculation.
“We have had three fantastic results, and when you see where the club is now and where it was five months ago, it is a magnificent achievement, and we should be shouting it from the roof tops,” he said.
“But the appointing of Paul is not that simple. There are other things to be put in place and we are still determined to bring in someone from overseas to guide the club in areas that we feel need strengthening. We are still awaiting a visa for our preferred candidate and can’t move on anything till then.
“In the meantime, Paul is doing a magnificent job along with Neil Jukes and the rest of his coaching staff and the players, and the amount of work behind the scenes is incredible to get us to this stage.
“To score 23 tries against tough opposition – forget all this about weakened sides, that’s rubbish – everything at the club is extremely positive and I feel not enough people are letting others know this.
“Let’s give credit where credit is due and although we know there will be some tough times ahead, everyone involved has done a marvellous job and they are all working hard to keep us on the up and up.”
Meanwhile Leigh have picked up a number of worrying injuries during their successes against Salford, Halifax and Wigan Warriors.
“We only have a small squad to start with,” confirmed Rowley, “But Jonathan Pownall suffered a broken jaw in the win against Wigan that will sideline him for a couple of weeks and Tommy Goulden is still suffering from a pectoral injury that is slow to clear up.
“Add Michael Ostlick’s Achilles tendon injury that could see him sidelined for months and Jimmy Taylor’s recuperation from a wrist injury in the close season, and we are already four key players missing from the squad for when we take on Barrow on February 12. Hopefully Martyn Ridyard will have recovered from the injury that kept him out of the Wigan game, but we cannot afford to lose too many players.”
Leigh will be seeking to strengthen their squad with the import of a couple of dual registered players and Rowley is hopeful that he can confirm signings later this week.
“I am in talks with Wigan,” he admitted, “and we are looking for a prop to bolster that position. Rob Parker and Ricky Bibey are strong, but they can not lead on their own and although Sam Hopkins and Tommy Gallagher played there against Wigan, it is not something we want to do every week if we don’t need to.
“Obviously there is a bit of negation to be undertaken, but we have a good relationship with Wigan as well as other clubs and hopefully we can get the signing sealed soon.”
With regard to the pre-season preparation, Rowley doesn’t think it could have gone much better. “Three wins out of three is what we wanted, and we scored plenty of points, but we need to keep our feet on the ground. We still have a lot of areas to work on and over the season, injuries will take their toll on our small squad.”
Rowley wouldn’t be drawn on the coaching vacancy, but he has gone on record as saying he does want the coaching post.
l Due to high demand the 2012 Leigh Centurions player issue polo shirts are now available for fans too. They are in store now at Jitterbugz, 12 Railway Road, Leigh. Tel 01942 603004 for details.