New Leigh coach John Duffy has hit out at some of the club’s previous overseas stars and explained why his focus will be on home-grown players during a wide-ranging interview.
After an off-season which saw the remainder of Leigh’s 2018 squad and coach Kieron Purtill leave the club, the news of Duffy’s return to the club where he made 200 appearances as a player – quickly followed by that of half-back Martyn Ridyard – has appeased fans who feared the very future of the club was in jeopardy.
Centurions will be part-time for the first time in four years and their newly “stripped down” operation is a throwback to when current owner Derek Beaumont took control of the club.
After Duffy’s second training session on a chilly Saturday morning, Mark Taylor treated Leigh’s new coaching team to lattes in Morrisons cafe and asked them about a chaotic and eventful few days. This is the first of two feature interviews...
John Duffy, head coach
“It has been a tough few days because everything has happened that fast. But everyone has been a great help to me. Micky (Higham) has been in most days and of course Jay (Duffy) and Ando (Paul Anderson) have been helping to get players in but they have to be the right players.
“We are trying to keep everyone as local as we can with the emphasis being on players who want to play for Leigh. I think over the past couple of seasons, Leigh have some overseas players who have come and taken the p**s and I don’t mind you writing that.
“The coaching staff are all ex-Leigh players and we all know how much it means to play for that shirt. There was a team spirit I had when I first started at Leigh and I’ve never felt anything like it before or since. Everyone used to enjoy coming to the club.
“If ever we had a function, all the families would be there – kids and everyone – and that’s what we want to bring back. We want families to feel like we used to at Hilton Park here at the Sports Village.
“I want us to run out in front of that North Stand and it feels like it used to at Hilton Park. I always wanted to come back here. I’m jealous that I’ve not been involved when the club enjoyed success and I wasn’t part of it. I played that many games for the club, that it ties you to it. It’s great to be back here and have the coaches we’ve got now because they know all about it. We all love the town.
“It wasn’t a tough sell to any of the players who have come back. Not just because it’s Leigh but because of the staff we’ve got – they’ve either worked with them or played with them before. They have jumped straight back in because they remember the success they’ve had here.
“We’ve got lads like the Adamson brothers who are Leigh East lads but have never played for Leigh yet always wanted to. Andy Bracek was at Leigh Miners... these are Leigh lads who have always wanted that opportunity and now they’re here they are taking that opportunity with both hands. We have got some great players here – this is a massive club.
“It has been good seeing some old faces and some new faces and the first couple sessions have been really good. We will do well this year. We’ve got a good environment.”
Paul Anderson, assistant coach
“I don’t actually know how we got through last season. There was pressure from within – even from the coaches. We were always behind the 8-Ball from those first five or six games.
“It was probably the worst year for me personally. You’re falling out with people – mates and family and it was all because of rugby. Sometimes you found yourself asking ‘do I really want to do this?’.
“At the end of the season, it was a case of where do we go from here. After the final game of the season, we didn’t know what was going t happen next. We’d be waiting for the phone to ring, asking ourselves ‘ do they want us’, ‘what’s going on’.
“Things are looking more positive but anything’s an improvement on the end of last season.
“There will be more players coming in and they will be players who want to be here for the right reasons. They are people who want to play for Leigh and are from Leigh.
“We’ve had people here over the past few seasons who just don’t know what Leigh is about. It’s not that they’ve not wanted to play for Leigh, they’ve just come here and sailed through the year.
“We had some players here at the beginning of last season when we were losing that just didn’t get the concept of the play-offs and seemed to think we’d go into Super League regardless. I’ve heard some people say that Leigh will be relegation candidates this season but let them think that. As a group we’ve got our own goals and it’s up to us to prove people wrong.”