Beaumont column part 1: Tonga’s arrival surprised our players

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LEIGH Centurions head of rugby Derek Beaumont discusses Willie Tonga, more signings - and a little puppy...

Well, what a week that was! I must stop letting my business interfere with the rugby club. Willie Tonga’ arrival set the tempo with the filming of him signing on LCTV. Such is the professionalism of the player, 10 minutes after finishing filming he had his boots on and ripped straight in on the field, immediately showing his class.

Just prior to that me and Rolls introduced him to the group and the look on some of the boys’ faces was funny to see.

Gaz Hock was shocked he had seen him with a brew around the club earlier in the morning and recognised him from playing against him for England when Willie represented Australia.

He said it never crossed his mind that he was there as he was going to sign for Leigh! It was one that the boys hadn’t got wind of and that was probably because it all went so quick.

It was the easiest and fastest signing I have made to date and Catalan Dragons should be commended for how they conduct their business. Within 48 hours paperwork was complete and Willie was on a plane heading to Liverpool.

The only aspect that required any kind of effort was Willie has some belongings in France that he was concerned with getting to Leigh. I quickly removed that concern by informing him I could send a van over for him.

There’s a nice little story that evolved from that as when I emailed Catalan Dragons regarding the details of collecting and informing them my cousin Andrew Barlow was doing me a favour and coming over, but would need assistance to load the vehicle, they came back confirming it was no problem to help – and with a request of their own.

They had signed Paul Aiton a few weeks earlier and he had a five month old puppy that he hadn’t been able to take over, and was desperate to get there. Now most of you will probably know something I didn’t, a dog needs a passport!

Our media director and good friend Mike Latham doesn’t even have one of those, so I didn’t hold up much hope for the young puppy, and thought our good gesture of picking it up from Leeds and delivering it to Paul in the south of France would be scuppered.

But the little cutie had its very own passport and Andy was able to reunite Paul with his cherished possession before loading Willie’s belongings and heading home.

Talking of signings it looked at one point that we would take our tally of internationals to 13 – my lucky number – but it turned out not to be.

We had come across Jason Chan when looking for centres and he had been suggested as he can play there as well as the back row. Although we sorted out Willie, Rolls really fancied Jason, and what he would add to the group.

I thought, ‘What the heck, let’s do this, we have a special team evolving and I can afford it so why not?’

But in the end Jason decided he was going to retire on the day of signing and I wish him well for the future.

We don’t need to add another player – although it would be nice – so it will be a case if something comes along rather than hunting anything down.

I am a great believer in everything happens for a reason.