Leigh Centurions: McNally a number one hit

Leigh's Gregg McNally won three awards to cap a memorable season. Photo: Paul McCarthy Photography
Leigh's Gregg McNally won three awards to cap a memorable season. Photo: Paul McCarthy Photography
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IT HAS been quite a year for Gregg McNally.

The stand-off turned full-back embraced the new full-time environment at Leigh by moving his young family to Pennington from Huddersfield.

And on the field he produced what he described as his best ever season.

On Friday he was crowned Coach’s Player of the Year, Leigh Centurions Players Association Player of the Season and LISA Player of the Year.

He has been a virtual ever present since joining Leigh in 2012.

His security under the high bomb and astute positional sense mark him out as one of the best full-backs outside Super League.

He also has an eye for the gap and ability to join the attacking line to great effect, making the most of his predatory instincts which he fine-tuned in his younger days as a stand-off.

“It was Nathan Brown at Huddersfield who moved me to full-back,” said McNally.

“He thought I would be better suited playing there because you get more space. I try to put myself into good positions but I’m lucky to be following up the hard work of our forwards.”

Still only 23, McNally burst onto the scene with his hometown club Whitehaven before moving to Huddersfield on a three year deal.

His opportunities were limited with the Giants and he spent time on loan with Oldham and Barrow before making the move to Leigh.

In 2014 he became only the second Leigh fullback in history (after Neil Turley) to top 20 tries in a season. 2015 proved even more successful as he scored 30 tries making him the third top try scorer for the club behind Ryan Brierley and Liam Kay.

Leigh’s Super 8 fade out came as a huge disappointment to everyone at the club but McNally believes it’s an experience which they will learn lessons from.

“To play at Championship level then face three Super League teams in a row was a massive shock to the system,” he said. “The fixtures were not kind to us. We thought we had the game won against Hull KR but we didn’t complete the job.

“I think it would have been a completely different story if we’d won that game. There was a feeling at half-time that we were nearly there but we were taught a lesson.

“Maybe it was a blessing in disguise. We know now what to expect and in time we might look back at it and think it did us good. “When we play as we can can click we are more than a match for anyone as we showed in the Challenge Cup games against Wakefield, Salford and Warrington.”

McNally attributes his form to being settled in Leigh with wife Rosey and two young children.

“Leigh is actually a lot like Whitehaven in that it’s a rugby mad town,” he said. “Leigh’s also a bit more modern than Whitehaven and the people here are friendlier,” he added tongue in cheek, mindful of his love-hate relationship with the Whitehaven fans.

He describes himself as “the most hated man in Whitehaven” and whenever he returns with Leigh he’s the target of abuse for the frighteningly partisan Recreation Ground fans. He dismisses talk of him being Leigh’s best player this year, instead turned the spotlight on his team-mates.

“I don’t think Jake Emmitt gets enough credit” he said. “He puts in 40 tackles a game and has really raised the bar. Then you’ve got the likes of Liam Kay, Martyn Ridyard and Ryan Brierley who have all been outstanding again. There are lot to choose from.”