Jukes job safe at Centurions

Neil Jukes
Neil Jukes

Leigh owner Derek Beaumont has promised to keep head coach Neil Jukes in his job if they are relegated on Saturday and, in a sign of his intent, has handed ex-St Helens boss Keiron Cunningham a new three-year contract as head of rugby.

In an illuminating press conference lasting more than 40 minutes, Beaumont also revealed Super League representatives are to discuss the possibility of expanding to 13 or 14 clubs by 2019 at a crucial meeting at the Rugby Football League headquarters in Leeds on Wednesday.

Beaumont, speaking ahead of Saturday’s Million-Pound Game against Catalans Dragons to determine the 12th place in Super League for 2018, re-iterated his own commitment to the club by insisting - in the event of relegation - the team would remain full-time under both Jukes and Cunningham, who joined the Centurions in August on a short-term contract following his sacking by Saints earlier in the year.

“Whilst there is a lot of uncertainty, what is certain is my commitment to the club and the sponsors have come out and supported that commitment even if the worst happens,” Beaumont said.

“So we’ve got real solidarity at the club and I can tell you now Keiron has signed a three-year deal as head of rugby irrespective of whether we’re in the Championship or not and I’m not going to sack Neil Jukes if we lose on Saturday.

“It is a tough situation to be in and we’re trying to make it as easy as it can be. I have watched how hard they have prepared and work all year.”

Leigh gained automatic promotion 12 months ago via the Super 8s Qualifiers which are in their third year and Beaumont says he will lobby for another change to the league structure at Wednesday’s meeting.

He said: “There’s a big meeting tomorrow at the RFL on what the structure should be going forward. What’s very clear is that it won’t be this going forward.

“There are 12 Super League sides at present but the owners and the RFL accept there are really 13. We consider ourselves a strong one because we’ve met every criteria in terms of funding and a return on investment.

“Hull KR, while they got relegated, are a strong Super League side. The game needs to answer over whether there could even be a 14th team - whether that’s a rejuvenated Bradford under a strong leadership and financial backing or if Toronto could be a genuine 14th team.”

Beaumont says he will resist calls for a return to licensing, insisting that the door should always remain open for clubs to gain promotion, and believes the Million-Pound Game is here to stay in some form.

“I will only ever vote on something that provides a way for someone to get promoted and where there is some form of risk,” he added.

“What people are against is being able to get relegated by finishing ninth, 10th or 11th. The Million Pound Game could be bottom of Super League playing top of the Championship, so everyone is clear that we want jeopardy and there is a path to Super League.”