Leigh Centurions have signed last year’s club captain Micky Higham on a full-time playing contract until the end of the season.
Higham, 37, had forged a new career as a social inclusion officer for Leigh Community Trust combined with working alongside the coaching staff on matchdays after seemingly playing the final game of his illustrious career in the pre season Warm Up game against Wigan Warriors.
Leigh Centurions owner Derek Beaumont explained the move had come about after discussions with caretaker coach Kieron Purtill following injuries to hookers Daniel Mortimer and Kurt Baptiste. He said: “When Kieron asked me about bringing Micky back, with losing Morts and with Baptiste already sidelined I thought it was just the tonic this Club needs at the moment.
“Ironically when Micky was getting offers to carry on playing I advised him to sit tight as he had a long future at the club which was worth more than a year playing and that if he was destined to play something would happen to bring that round.
“It’s a long season and injuries can happen and there’s always an element of the unknown. Micky is Leigh through and through and it gives us an identity on the pitch. His passion and determination, combined with his leadership skills, will have a big influence on the rest of the boys.
“It’s obviously written in his destiny that he doesn’t finish as part of a team that got relegated, it is to be seen if that is to be being part of a team that gets promoted and I know he will be hell bent on achieving that. His playing ability was never in doubt and he demonstrated that in his spells against Wigan.
“It’s well known he didn’t want to hang up his boots and I would like to thank Hannah (Forbes) of Leigh Community Trust for agreeing and assisting with Micky’s immediate return to the playing staff. I am looking forward to seeing him take back to the field in a Leigh Jersey.”
Micky Higham said: “It all seems a little bit surreal. When Kieron asked me to look at the possibility of coming back as a player I was really excited and I got butterflies in my stomach.
“I felt like I did when I first signed professional forms for Leigh as a teenager and I thought that if I still got that feeling then the desire was still there.
“I’ve made no secret that I never wanted to retire and two or three clubs had enquired about my services but I turned them down. I said to Derek and Kieron today that I wasn’t holding out for Leigh but something was burning inside me that told me an opportunity may come up.
“It’s not an easy time for the Club at the moment but people who know me know how much Leigh means to me. I care deeply about the place and the last time I played in a competitive match I was in floods of tears after relegation.
“We’ve had a poor start to the season and it’s not good enough for the standards we set and the crowds we get. Rugby League in Leigh means such a lot to a lot of people and hopefully by coming back I’ll be able to influence things on and off the field and demonstrate to the players here that they are at a great club.
“I’ve been coming on during games as trainer and seeing lads with their heads down behind the posts. Sometimes I’ve not had feedback and not had eyes looking back at me and one or two lads have been away from the group. It’s been frustrating to see that and on Monday after Jukesy’s departure (head coach Neil Jukes) I felt I had to speak up.
“I owe Jukesy a lot and I really felt for him. He gave me the captaincy and he got us into Super League and no one can ever take that away from him. He had an incredible work ethic and he has left with dignity. We know he wants us to do well.
“ I told the players that whenever I played for Leigh I may not have had the greatest game, I may have made mistakes, missed tackles, dropped the ball or gave away a penalty but I always left that field knowing I had given 100 percent for my home town club. I now have the opportunity to prove that and I’m confident that with the players and coaching staff we have that we can turn things around.
“My message to the fans would be this: we know you’re frustrated, we know some of you have vented your frustrations but please stick with us. I know we can turn it around but we can only do that with everyone sticking together and showing unity.
“I’d like to thank Hannah for agreeing to release me from my contract at Leigh Community Trust so I can complete unfinished business. Working for the Trust in the community has been an amazing experience and given me a new outlook on a lot of things, seeing the wonderful work they do and how committed and talented the staff are to improving the lives of local people.”
Micky Higham will have squad number 30 and will be available for selection for this Sunday’s Betfred Championship home game against Featherstone Rovers at LSV (3pm).