Blake Ferguson could follow Nene Macdonald out of door at Leigh Leopards

LEIGH LEOPARDS’ new-look side will have a first run-out in a warm-up match against Leeds next month, with Nene Macdonald possibly among the opposition while Blake Ferguson may be back in Australia.

The pair were star members of this year’s promotion-winning squad, but centre Macdonald has, as predicted, moved to the Rhinos, while it’s rumoured that winger Ferguson will return home for personal reasons.

The 32-year-old former NRL, New South Wales and Australia ace, who powered his way to 21 tries in 17 games to help Adrian Lam’s side win both the 1895 Cup and Championship Grand Final, is contracted until 2024.

But his stay could be cut short, and while that would be a big blow as Leigh aim to avoid an immediate relegation from Super League for the first time in four attempts, it would free up one of their seven overseas quota spots.

Tom Amone, John Asiata, Edwin Ipape, Ricky Leutele, Ben Nakubuwai and Kai O’Donnell fill the other places, with ex-Huddersfield centre Leutele among a string of additions since a fourth tilt at the top-flight in the summer era was sealed.

Former Sydney Roosters, Gold Coast Titans, St George Illawarra Dragons, North Queensland Cowboys and Cronulla Sharks man Macdonald, who helped Norths Devils win the Queensland Cup Grand Final under now Leeds coach Rohan Smith in 2021, played in all four of Papua New Guinea’s World Cup games after notching 27 tries in as many outings with Leigh this year.

Leigh will host Leeds on Sunday, January 2 (kick-off to be confirmed), with the sides competing for the Bev Risman Trophy, marking the career of the dual-code international who played for both clubs.

It will be the home club’s first game since their rebrand as Leigh Leopards (they also head to Warrington for Wolves forward Ben Currie’s testimonial on Saturday, February 4).

Head of rugby Chris Chester said: “The players can’t wait to run out in front of our fans, who will be able to see the exciting squad we have assembled.

“Both sides intend to use their strongest available squads, and it will be a good test.”