LEIGH Centurions - in conjunction with Leigh Community Trust (LCT) - have completed the first phase of their initiative to take the club into the area’s primary schools.
The brainchild of coach Paul Rowley and head of rugby Derek Beaumont, the project has seen Centurions directors, staff and players take the trophies they won in a record-breaking 2014 season on a tour around the local community and engage with the supporters and players of tomorrow.
Since the Centurions won the Kingstone Press Championship Grand final last October to add to the League Leaders Shield in a season in which they won 31 of their 33 games the club seen 3,343 pupils spread over 12 schools. The success of the club’s Reserves side, who emulated the first-teamers success in winning their league and Grand Final has also been recognised.
Paul Rowley and reserves coach Paul Anderson, who both went on to play at the top level of the game after first learning to play rugby league in local primary schools, have been accompanied on their visits to school assemblies by fellow coach Simon Finnigan and Derek Beaumont and his fellow directors, chairman Michael Norris and Mike Latham.
Many of the Centurions first-team squad have also helped to spread the messages about the importance of team-work, dedication, lifestyle, diet and nutrition, preparation and following your dreams including Tom Spencer, Ryan Brierley, Cameron Pitman, Jonny Pownall, Matthew Sarsfield, Jamie Acton, Sam Hopkins and Martyn Ridyard, while pupils have also learned about the Club’s rich heritage dating back to 1878.
Pupils have also gathered a unique insight into the Centurions’ success by viewing exclusive motivation videos shown to players before games and put together by Hannah Forbes and Heather Parker from LCT.
The following junior schools have been visited so far: Atherton St George’s Primary, Culcheth Primary, Leigh Sacred Heart, Leigh CE Juniors, Lowton West Primary, Newton Westpark Primary, Sacred Heart Hindsford, St Richard’s Primary, Westleigh Methodist Primary, Westleigh St Paul’s, St George’s Central Tyldesley, St Thomas’ Primary.
Leigh head of rugby Derek Beaumont said: “The schools that I had the pleasure of visiting greatly impressed me. It is so pleasing to see the respect and attention that our future generation have for their schools and their teachers. It really was impossible to pick one school that stood out from the others. From what I witnessed I would say our children are in a good place and their futures are in safe hands.
“While promoting the club was an inevitable outcome of the process our main goal was to reinforce the strong messages that teachers deliver on a daily basis regarding the importance of learning. Whilst youngsters should be encouraged to chase their dreams we pointed out that there are limited opportunities earning a living as a professional rugby player and even less as a coach.
“We outlined the importance of having good knowledge and skills even if you did achieve your dreams and I genuinely think our messages were well received by the children in an interesting manner and I would like to thank the head teachers for giving us access at their assemblies as well as Leigh Community Trust for organising everything.”
Mike Latham added: “It was a privilege to visit the junior schools. My role was mainly to give some details about Leigh’s rich history and place it into context with some of the topics the children had been studying.
“For instance all schools have been studying the World War One. So when I explained about the 13 Leigh players who lost their lives during that conflict and some of the streets they came from and the schools they had attended it hopefully brought home the impact of that global conflict on the local community.
“Seeing at first hand the way our directors, coaches and players connected with the local schools was humbling and inspiring to me and reinforced what an important role Leigh’s rugby club plays in giving the area an identity and pride.”
Brian Cunliffe, chair of Governors at Lowton West Primary said: “On behalf of all the children and staff at Lowton West Primary school can I thank Heather, Derek, Paul and Cameron most sincerely for visiting the school and taking the assembly.
“The assembly was presented in a truly professional manner and the children absolutely loved it and enjoyed asking questions.
“It was obvious from the presentation why Leigh Centurions did so well last year and the school wishes the team and all the backroom staff the very best for the coming season.”