Ryan Brierley believes Toronto are massive underdogs ahead of their trip to Leigh after enduring a “pre-season from hell.”
The Wolfpack’s first game in the Championship will provide them with the toughest test possible, going up against the big-spending Centurions who are looking to get back into Super League at the first time of asking.
Toronto are expected to be Leigh’s biggest challenger during the course of the campaign after their own high-profile recruitment. However, the Scotland international was adamant that expectations shouldn’t be high after a difficult off-season.
“It’s been a pre-season from hell really, probably the worst one I’ve ever been involved in.
“We came back in November and had a few operations like every other club. We had a new conditioner come in but unfortunately we sustained quite a few injuries and we had limited time on the field. Then of course we lost three high-calibre players which isn’t ideal at any time.
“I’d be the first to admit we’re way behind where we want to be at this time of the year. It’s just not been great, but we’ve had a change in the staff, we have a new conditioner and both Rowls (Paul Rowley), Finny (Simon Finigan) and Kurt Haggerty have done a great job of regaining control of the situation and turning it around.”
The game against Leigh has been hyped as one of the biggest of the entire weekend. The off-field subplot featuring Leigh owner Derek Beaumont and Rowley adds a personal element to the contest, but Brierley insists it won’t affect the players.
“It’s nice not to have the pressure on us. We understand that Leigh are going to be favourites. They’ve had another £500,000 to spend on the squad and I think Derek has openly said not getting back to Super League would be deemed as a failure.
“Their squad, in general, is much stronger than last year’s I’d say and there’s no doubt it will be a tough challenge for us against the red-hot favourites. That one game won’t go a long way to what happens during the year.
“There’s no pressure on us to win the game. I know the media and fans will hype it up as a rivalry game but we just see it as a game against high-quality opposition. We’re going to try and match them but it will be a tough challenge. It’s a daunting challenge, but one we will look forward to with no pressure on us.”
The match will be Brierley’s second return to LSV since leaving the club in a high-profile exit to Huddersfield just under two years ago.
He was jeered throughout during his first comeback, but he believes he has a good relationship with the club and its supporters.
“I’m proud of my achievements at Leigh,” he said.
“To leave in the club’s top five try-scorers was something I never thought possible. I think the relationship I had with the fans, especially the kids, was special and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it.
“I’ll always have that soft spot for the club and I’m thankful for that building block they provided for me to become a professional player.
“I think both sides would have done things differently with the exit. It was a mess and I think if we could go back both parties would change it.
“I think me and the Leigh club are on good times and when I’ve spoken to Derek it’s been nice. It’s got to a point where it’s forgotten about and we’ve both moved on. I went to Super League and Leigh got there too.”