Leigh Centurions will be without second row forward Tommy Goulden for Thursday nights Championship Grand Final Eliminator against Sheffield Eagles.
The popular forward will also miss the Grand Final if Leigh can overcome the side that has proved their nemesis for the past two seasons and improve on a record that has seen them without a play-off win since 2004!
On top of that Leigh will have a bare 17 players available for selection should they manage to retain dual registered Tom Spencer from Wigan.
In fact it looks very much like the Rugby League gods are conspiring against Leigh to deny them the opportunity to turn this season into a fairy tale of success, when you consider where they were some 12 months ago.
But having said all that, Centurions Coach, Paul Rowley refuses to look ahead to Thursday night’s clash at the Leigh Sports village with anything but optimism.
“You play the cards you are dealt with and make the best job of them,” he said. “Tommy’s injury to his shoulder is unfortunate and we could have done without it, but we are where we are and the players who are in the squad will give it their all. Certainly we have been playing well enough to do the job and reach that Grand Final.
“Sheffield arrive, of course on the back of two huge wins and showing some great form, but despite last week’s result at Featherstone we have been showing some good form ourselves.
“Against Featherstone we did not disappoint performance-wise and in that first half we dominated. Unfortunately we were conceded 14 out of 17 penalties in the second half. That was not a reflection on how the game was going, but to me was just one more incidence of why we had requested some weeks earlier that Mr Stokes was not put in charge of our games. There certainly seems to be some communication issue when he referees us and once again we copped for it.
“Having said that we should have done everything we could to ensure we gave no excuses for penalties, and that is what we will be doing this time out.
“We will have 17 fit players and that includes three wingers and three halves, with us being light on forwards. But that is somewhat indicative of our season in many respects as we have constantly had to overcome injury and adversity, and we still managed to finish second.
“Sheffield will be full of confidence and of course they beat us in the playoffs for the past two seasons. But that, and the fact that we last won a play-off in 2004 when we went on to win the Grand Final is not really of any significance. The vast majority of Our side was focussing on their text books at school when that happened, and they will just be focussed on what this means this time out.”
Leigh came a cropper at Featherstone as the Rovers booked their third successive Final appearance, but despite the injury to Goulden and the late dismissal of Kevin Henderson, Leigh were really only out of this game in the closing stages, and had a couple of dubious decisions not ruled out tries, they may already have been set for the Halliwell Jones Stadium on September 30.
Form wise Leigh have done the double over Sheffield this season, winning 34-32 away and 40-12 at home. Obviously, the 50 points put past Halifax last week by the Eagles shows they are set on a second successive Grand Final, and it is up to Leigh to bring them down to earth.