Two current Leigh Centurions players reached notable milestones in Sunday’s win over Doncaster.
Club historian Mike Latham looks at the achievements of Gregg McNally and Ryan Brierley...
Gregg McNally became only the second Leigh fullback to score 20 tries in a season when he dived over just before half-time in the play-off game against Doncaster. Neil Turley is the only other Leigh fullback to achieve this feat, something he recorded on three separate occasions. Turley scored a remarkable 55 tries in his debut season with Leigh in 2001, a world record for a fullback in RL. He followed up with 29 tries in 2002 and scored 26 in the 2004 season. In the 2003 season Turley scored 19 tries in 22 appearances and was actually fourth in Leigh’s try-scoring list behind Damian Munro (32), Dale Cardoza (20) and Paul Rowley (20).
Try-scoring fullbacks are something of a recent phenomenon in RL. In the early days of the game the fullback rarely got involved in attacking play. Legendary fullback Tom Coop (#1) who represented England against Scotland in 1892, played nearly 300 games for Leigh in rugby union and then Northern Union and never scored a try for the club.
Welshman James Coleman was the first Leigh fullback to score a try for the club, in a Challenge Cup-tie against Abbey Hills in March 1898.
The great Leigh fullback Ellis Clarkson only scored ten tries in 214 games between 1905 and 1919 and his equally highly regarded brother Tommy scored 17 in 369 games from that position between 1919 and 1933. Jimmy Ledgard scored 36 tries in 334 Leigh games after the Second World War. Before Neil Turley came along, Paul Topping held the Leigh record for that position with 18 tries during the 1990-91 season, beating Chris Johnson’s 14 in 1985-86.
Ryan Brierley has become only the third Leigh player in the club’s history to finish top try-scorer three seasons in a row. Brierley, who scored 25 tries in 2012 and also in 2013, has scored 42 tries so far this season- the third highest tally in a season.
Winger Jack Wood was Leigh’s top try-scorer with 18 tries in 1947-48 and repeated the feat with 23 tries the following season and 31 in the 1949-50 season.
Rod Tickle emulated Wood’s feat by scoring 20 tries in 1967-68, 14 in 1968-69 and 20 in 1969-70 to finish top try-scorer on each occasion.
Incidentally, Brierley is on course to become the second fastest player to score 100 tries for the club. Turley reached the milestone in only his 77th Leigh game, beating the previous record of Mick Martyn, who raised his century in his 149th Leigh appearance. Brierley has so far scored 92 tries in 87 Leigh games.
Only nine players in the history of the Club have scored 100 tries for Leigh: Mick Martyn (189), John Woods (152), Bill Kindon (149), Des Drummond (141), Neil Turley (132), Joe Walsh (128), Rod Tickle (114), Gordon Lewis (112) and David Ingram (100).