Neil Jukes: Chance for Leigh Centurions to get things right

Leigh players celebrate a try during their clash with Wigan last weekend. Photo: Paul McCarthy
Leigh players celebrate a try during their clash with Wigan last weekend. Photo: Paul McCarthy
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Neil Jukes will get another look at his new-look squad when they travel to St Helens for another preseason game on Friday.

The Leigh coach was satisfied with his team’s efforts against a near full strength Wigan side on Sunday even though they ended up losing 22-14.

And with several players still to get an extended run, Jukes sees the Saints game as an important part of the preparations for the much-anticipated opening game of the Championship season against Paul Rowley’s Toronto Wolfpack next month.

“The important thing for us is getting right for game one,” said Jukes. “Obviously we would have liked to have won against Wigan given the rivalry between the sides and there were some things that were a bit scratchy. But the one of the things that we spoke about behind closed doors was how we needed to forge a DNA. Talk is cheap but I think we showed some really good signs against Wigan.

“We need to get smarter in a couple of areas and we have a short turnaround before going to Saints on Friday.”

With so many new players arriving at the club during the close season, a game against quality opposition like Wigan was always going to be a tall order for the Centurions.

But there were some promising performances from the likes of NRL imports Peter Matautia and Paterkia Vaivai who both marked their debuts with tries.

“We have put the players through some real tough challenges in preseason and have held some contested training sessions against some good clubs. “Each time, they’ve been ticking boxes but the ultimate challenge is putting it together in a game situation. I think we’re in a good place. We will have some video work this week.”

Jukes hopes to give Bodene Thompson his debut at St Helens but Rhys Evans is out for around six weeks with a shoulder problem. Leigh are also hoping for a positive update on former Canberra Raiders hooker Kurt Baptiste who had been waiting for clearance on his Visa.