Of course Leigh is a club that has enjoyed a year of highs and lows, and ardent fans would say it wouldn’t be Leigh if that wasn’t the case.
But after a magnificent start to their cup and Leigh campaigns that saw them lose just once in their opening 17 games, the wheels came off when benefactor Chairman Arthur Thomas resigned because of his own ailing business, and it was revealed that the club was in grave danger of folding without his financial backing.
It had been a marvellous season until then. The only defeat had been at home to Super League side Catalan Dragons 16-22 in the Challenge Cup fourth round and the Centurions had twice hammered 50 points past a Widnes side with a Super League franchise virtually in the bag, as well as beating Championship finalists from the previous year Featherstone Rovers and Halifax.
With Ian Millward in charge the magic was back with Leigh and the LSV was resounding with the fans cheers.
But then the news broke and with it came Leigh’s first defeat when beaten at home by Halifax. The Board attempted to say it was nothing to do with the financial news, but without certainty of payment it would be inevitable that the players minds would be on other things.
Yet the players showed tremendous spirit to pick themselves up and back themselves to win the Northern Rail Cup which they did in the most thrilling of fashion when beating Halifax in the dying seconds of the best ever competition Final thanks to a last gasp Tom Armstrong try.
Leigh put together another 11 match unbeaten run that included that all-important Super League Franchise qualifying Northern Rail Cup Final success and went into the play-offs with just one League defeat but with a two point deduction for a previous season’s administrative error contributing to their second spot.
Behind the scenes, acting Chairman Keith Freer and volunteer Chief Executive Trevor Barton, desperately tried to patch together a financial package whilst Millward kept the troops battling on the field and confidence for the play-offs was high.
But a 35-20 defeat at Featherstone followed by a shock 20-10 home defeat by Sheffield ended a Grand Final dream, at the same time as it was confirmed that Millward was off to Castleford Tigers. That was another blow for the fans, but at least the affable Australian had fulfilled his part of the bargain in getting the Super League tick in the box.
But as the close season descended so the uncertainty of the club’s future heightened and players including top forward Chris Hill, top try scorer Jamie Ellis (with 34), leading points scorer Mick Nanyn with 394 points and club captain Stuart Donlan were among those moving to pastures new.
In a momentous effort that cannot be underestimated, Freer and Barton persuaded the RFL and the HM Customs and Excise to strike a deal that would keep Leigh going and as the fans rallied round the future was secured for 2012.
But now the New Year approaches and with Paul Rowley and Neil Jukes coaching the players, preparation is under way to make a bid for that elusive Grand Final. It will be a tough season ahead, and the new man – whoever he is – needs to be in place, sooner rather than later.