Leigh Centurions are searching for a new coach after Ian Millward confirmed that he is headed to Castleford Tigers and the Super League for the 2012 campaign.
“It was a tough decision to make,” said Millward. “But opportunities to coach in Super League don’t come around very often and you have to look to the future of your family.
“I will, however, be sad to leave Leigh. I’ve really enjoyed my time here. They are a good club and I’m proud of all I have achieved. They are in a lot stronger position now than they were when I arrived and they were set to be relegated.
“They now have a tick in the box for Super League after the Northern Rail Cup win, and of course, I am determined to leave them with a Grand Final victory too.”
Millward has been out of Super League since being sacked by Wigan in 2006 but has spent the last two years turning around the fortunes of Leigh, the club at which he began his head coaching career, back in 1998.
He was then recruited by St Helens two years later to take over from Ellery Hanley, and he enjoyed five straight years of success at Knowsley Road, guiding Saints to two Grand-Final triumphs and success in the Challenge Cup in 2001 and 2004 as well as the World Club Challenge.
Sacked by St Helens in May 2005 for misconduct, he was sensationally appointed as Wigan coach a fortnight later but lasted less than a year in the job after failing to arrest the club’s slump. He offered some guidance to Leigh’s then coach Tony Benson before returning to Australia, where he held coaching positions at North Queensland and Canberra, before taking up a third stint at Leigh.
Certainly the fans will be extremely disappointed to see him go whilst the Leigh board of directors offered the following statement through acting chairman, Keith Freer.
“Ian is without doubt one of the best coaches in the game of rugby league,” said Freer. “And it is because of this that our team has visibly improved over the last two years and recently won the Northern Rail Cup. We are also entering the play-offs in what could be a season of unprecedented success on the field. Our team morale is outstanding.
“As a professional sports person, you have only a limited shelf life, and you always want to compete against the best, gaining whatever rewards your skill entitles you to. Ian is ready for a new challenge.
“We will miss his drive, commitment, humour, his charm and downright decency.
“In particular we will miss his encyclopaedic knowledge of the whole sport and his ever ready advice.
“We are in the process of developing many new projects and Ian has been involved with and supportive of all of them and will continue to support all these new initiatives.
“We have had preliminary discussions with Castleford with regards forming a partnership involving the dual registration of young Tigers starlets gaining first team experience with Leigh. More details will follow in due course.
“Nonetheless, Ian will always have a bit of Leigh in his heart wherever his career takes him, because he has family here.
“We really wish him and his family well and they will always be welcome back.”