Roll the clocks back a little less than two months and Leigh Centurions were a club in crisis.
A heavy defeat to Halifax had left their season in tatters. An unfathomable five defeats from six games had left the Centurions seven points adrift of the top four before they’d even got going. Hopes of an instant return to Super League, which the club had threatened to do following an eye-catching recruitment drive, had been blown to smithereens.
But sport has a weird way of working itself out.
Since that dark day at The Shay, things have changed for the better at LSV.
Nine straight wins in all competitions have propelled the Leythers into fifth place, level on points with fourth-placed London, who they defeated 40-30 at the weekend.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround. From the outside, this was a club in disarray, a club that’s long-term future was very much in a perilous position with the threat of missing out on the Qualifiers and the funding that comes off the back of that.
But under the guidance of Keiron Purtill, in his first prolonged period as a head coach, the Centurions have turned things around superbly, and now seem certainties for a place in the Qualifiers after all.
Yet they aren’t out of the woods just yet, and the next five weeks will ultimately decide their fate.
This week’s Challenge Cup clash with Salford throws up perhaps an unwelcome distraction from the league. Featherstone, Toronto, Halifax and Toulouse make up Leigh’s next set of fixtures, a sequence of games they simply cannot afford to lose against sides all still fighting for a Qualifiers place.
Even now, Purtill’s star-studded side face an uphill battle. Despite restoring parity with the Broncos and Halifax, the pair have a game in hand against lower league opponents that would see them edge ahead again should they be victorious. Leigh are still playing catchup.
Their trip to Featherstone followed by a Summer Bash date with Paul Rowley’s Wolfpack will be a true marking of their credentials. Fev, despite their recent defeat to Toulouse, are deemed by the majority of coaches in the division as the most major threat to Toronto, who have lost just once so far this year and currently top the table.
In the history of the Super 8s, seven defeats has typically been the cut-off point to make the four. Despite their excellent run of form, Leigh’s have still notched up five defeats.
With trips to Toronto and Toulouse still to come, Leigh are still near enough at last chance saloon. But with their players firing and Purtill steadying the ship, they have a chance, something everyone associated with the club would have taken a few short months ago.