Leigh Centurions continue their exacting preparation for the Kingstone Press Championship with their fifth pre-season friendly on Sunday, against trophy favourites Halifax.
It’s a 3.00pm kick off and after narrow defeats against Super League opponents, Wigan Warriors, Salford Red Devils and Warrington Wolves, head Coach, Paul Rowley feels his side is well on track to make an impact in the Championship season that lies ahead despite still seeking a win.
“We could have played Championship One sides which would maybe have guaranteed us a win, but we would not have been tested as severely or learned as much about ourselves as we did against Super League opposition. Of course we would have liked to have won these games and it still hurts, but we needed more than a win in these games and I feel we have that.”
Against Warrington, Rowley was again feeling that his players had shown progress and improvement but were not the finished item as yet. “Once again against strong opposition we showed what a force we could be” he said. “The interchanges disrupted us in the second half, and we would like to think we can overcome those better. There were a few things to work on but they are getting less after each game. But if we can put that first 40 minutes together for 80 against Championship opposition I think we will be pretty formidable to be fair!”
Leigh’s trip to Halifax will see Rowley field a strong side and he admits that although he has an idea about the nucleus of his side, there have been some impressive performances in the warm up games and everyone will get their chance of a shirt as the season progresses.
“It’s a long season, and the lads have shown they can do it against the best.” points out Rowley. “Martin Aspinwall gave a pretty big shout that he is fit again and wants to be in the thick of it, and there were plenty of others who did that too. But we want it to be hard to win a shirt or keep a shirt and in reality there will be probably three or four shirts that will be up for grabs on a weekly basis.”
Heading to Halifax Leigh have yet to pick up a win and an Under 20’s dominated side also slipped to North Wales Crusaders last week, but Paul is not going to stick that task on his players.
“The aim is to be ready for Batley in the opening game on February 16” he says.
“Of course we are going to Halifax to win – we go into every game to do that – but I am not putting the pressure on my players of saying we need a win now.
“Halifax will be yet another stiff test in our pre-season preparation. They are the side that I expect to set the pace in the Championship and I don’t see any changes on that.”
With regard to the arrival of Kurt Haggerty on a season long loan from Barrow, Rowley explained. “With losing Simon Finnigan I felt we needed someone with a similar sort of game who could help us open opposition on the edge and Kurt is that sort of player. He has come to us on one deal and Craig Briscoe and Joe Bullock plus Chris Rowe have gone the other way. They need Championship game time and can get it a Barrow whilst Kurt gives us something we are seeking.”