Leigh Centurions threatened with legal action over approach for Featherstone coach

John Duffy
John Duffy

Leigh Centurions are facing legal action from Featherstone Rovers over their approach for coach John Duffy.

Duffy is expected to be welcomed to LSV this week, but their Championship rivals have threatened to take action against Leigh for inducement to breach contract.

A statement released by Featherstone said:

"Duffy was due to attend work last Monday-12 November 2018, which coincided with the first day of pre-season training. Unfortunately he failed to attend work and has not done so in the time since.

"The club have taken legal advice in relation to issues surrounding Duffy’s conduct and have today terminated his contract, as a result of his actions of gross misconduct.

"It is disappointing that the club has had to take this stance, especially after Duffy was awarded an extension to his contract, through to the end of the 2020 season.

"It also appears that Duffy has been engaged in discussions with Leigh Centurions, to take over as head coach.

"Formal action is now being taken against Duffy for breach of contract and Leigh for inducement to breach contract.

"As this is a legal matter, it would be inappropriate for the club to make any additional comments at this stage.

"In the meantime, strength and conditioner Greg Stebbings and reserve team head coach Paul March are leading preseason training sessions, while the club actively searches for a new head coach."

Leigh will this week confirm John Duffy as their new coach, sparking a huge, last-minute recruitment programme as the club rebuilds as a part-time operation from scratch.

Last week the Leigh Observer reported Duffy was Leigh’s number on target following the departure of Kieron Purtill for newly relegated Widnes Vikings.

Duffy could be installed as head coach by tomorrow (Wednesday). Duffy hasn’t been at any of Featherstone’s training sessions and he is intent on coming back to Leigh where he played 200 times over three spells.

The daily travel from Duffy’s home in Wigan to West Yorkshire has been cited as one of the main reasons for him wanting to leave Rovers and his arrival will go down well with the Leigh fans who remember him fondly as a player.

Paul Anderson and Micky Higham are expected to be confirmed as Duffy’s assistants with Higham potentially playing on for another season. There will also be a role for Duffy’s brother Jay.

Many Championship clubs have already started their preseason training and Leigh are some distance behind the rest. The new fixtures are out on Sunday and there is much to be done off the field at the club such as selling season ticket, attracting sponsors and producing new kits.

Duffy is looking to bring in around 20 players and could also make some loan signings. There is a strong chance they will look to enter into a dual reg deal with a Super League club, with St Helens already mentioned as possible partners.

Leigh still have to come to agreements with Rhys Evans and Kevin Larroyer - the two players who were on full-time contracts which owner Derek Beamount cited as the reason for the recent uncertainty. If deals can be done with the pair, the club will officially be out of “special measures” and their ban on signing players and appointing a new coach lifted. Larroyer is expected to find a new club this week with Halifax and Toulouse apparently keen on the player while talks with Evans and his representatives continue.

Many of the players being linked with Leigh for 2019 will be very familiar to Centurions fans. Tom Spencer, Jonny Pownall and Andy Thornley are just some of the names expected to rejoin the club this week. Featherstone half-back Martyn Ridyard has been talked about but he is under contract and is also wanted by other Championship sides including Widnes.

Hooker Sean Penkywicz is another Leyther who could be “coming home” but he may be unable to get out of his current contract with Workington Town.

Meanwhile, Widnes have re-signed utility back Jack Owens from Leigh for 2019.