Leigh Centurions have signed former Bradford Bulls fullback Gregg McNally, with help from the Leigh Independent Supporters Association (LISA).
Centurions Chairman Mike Latham said: “The way the fans have rallied round since an appeal was made for more members to join LISA to fund Gregg’s signing has shown their desire to the club and has been really heart-warming.
“At the last count there have been 147 new members sign up in the last few days, plus one-off donations and the membership of LISA now stands at more than 400, which (LISA secretary) Lynda Pike informs us is the highest it’s ever been.
“Were not cash rich and have got to adhere to a strict budget, but this shows the momentum that can be quickly built up to help John (Duffy) reinforce his squad. I sincerely hope that the fans continue to support LISA and that more new members will join having seen the immediate benefits to Leigh Centurions.”
Fans’ favourite McNally, who lives in Leigh, was recently released from the final year of his contract with Bradford Bulls on compassionate grounds because of his wife’s serious illness and his two young children.
His wife Rosey suffers from avascular necrosis, a crippling bone condition known as AVN which involves a loss of blood to the bones. With Rosey’s condition getting worse, he has been prevented from attending pre-season training, forcing him to look for a club close to his Leigh home in order to continue his playing career.
Centurions head coach John Duffy said: “Due to Gregg’s current situation at home he’s not been able to get across to Bradford and he was faced with giving up the sport unless we could help him.
“Now all he has to do is nip down his back ginnel to the ground for training and matches.
“It’s a very sad situation that Gregg and his family have found themselves in and Bradford have been very professional and understanding with the way they have dealt with his situation.
“But when you have quality people there like John Kear and Stuart Duffy you’d expect nothing less. They are two fantastic people and that’s why they are so respected throughout the game.
“We wanted to help Gregg in his current plight and out of this adversity we have got the services of a great player and one who’s genuinely excited to be back at the Club.
“As coaches, players and staff we will do all we can to help Rosey in her current situation and raise awareness of this terrible condition. It’s our job now to ensure Gregg is in the right frame of mind to continue his career and resume where he left off with Leigh Centurions. I’m sure that with the support systems around him Gregg will enjoy his rugby and thrive. I know our fans will be delighted he’s back and will help ensure Gregg and his family gets all the help they need.”
McNally, 28, emerged as a stand-out teenager with hometown Whitehaven and scored the last try at Hilton Park in 2008 during his first season with the Marras. His performances at the Recreation Ground earned him a three-year contract with Huddersfield Giants and during his time there he gained further first-team experience at both Oldham and Barrow.
He joined Leigh in 2012, playing alongside Duffy and went to play 147 games over the next six seasons, scoring 94 tries and kicking 20 goals. In Leigh’s last home Super League fixture in 2017 he scored an outstanding individual try in the victory over Salford at LSV which showcased his all-round attacking skills.
Gregg won a trio of awards in 2015 as Player of the Year as voted by the coaches, LISA and Leigh Past Players Association respectively after scoring 30 tries during the campaign.
He was a member of Leigh’s Northern Rail Cup-winning team in 2013 and scored a try in the Championship Grand Final victory over Featherstone Rovers in 2014. He played a major role in the Centurions’ trio of Championship League Leaders Shields between 2014 and 2016 and in the successful Super 8s campaign that saw the Club achieve promotion to Super League.
Last season he helped Bradford achieve promotion from Championship One and took his tally of Ireland caps into double figures by playing in all three autumn internationals against Scotland, France and Wales.
McNally has scored 146 tries in 222 career games and with 169 goals and one drop-goal has accumulated 919 career points.
Gregg McNally said: “I call Leigh my home now and it always will be, so it’s great to be back.
“The way it ended when I left the Club in 2017 wasn’t pretty and I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to play for them again. The prospect of running out at LSV again and playing in front of the North Stand is really exciting.
“Duffs is a good bloke and he likes to play an expansive style of rugby and that’s going to suit me. I love expressing myself of a rugby field. I played alongside John at Leigh and we had some great times together and now he’s really building up his reputation in the coaching ranks. I’ve heard a lot of good things about him from his times at Swinton and Featherstone.
“He’s a good laugh but he knows when to be serious and players respect him for his coaching abilities and how he is as a person. The atmosphere around the club is great and there’s a real buzz among the players I’ve spoken to.
“With Rosey’s condition I needed to be close to home to look after her and the kids and i was thinking I’d have to hang up my boots. So I’m so thankful for the opportunity that Duffs and Leigh have given me. Mentally, as well, it will give me a huge boost being back here and being able to carry on playing.
“I can’t put into words what (Bradford Bulls chairman) Andrew Chalmers, John Kear and Stuart Duffy have done for me, and Bradford as a club have been so caring and professional. Andrew was very understanding straight away and he’s just been fantastic and John and Stuart equally so.
“I’ve never met anyone as strong or positive as Rosey. She always puts other people before herself and right now is trying to help others and raise awareness of the condition. She’s found other people in Leigh who are sufferers and has been supporting them.
“We had a sponsored walk in Leigh recently along the guided busway and somehow Rosey walked the four-and-a-half miles. We raised over £1,300 on the day with other pledges coming in for the charity. The support we got from local people and the wider community was fantastic.
“We have a long road ahead but if anyone can do it she can.”
Duffy added: “We’ve got the makings now of a very exciting squad and to add Gregg’s talents to the players we have already got is a mouth-watering prospect. Gregg’s a very smart player and a very talented one.
“Gregg can play one, six or seven so he will put pressure on the other pivots and really increase the competition for places. As a result I’m expecting the intensity in training to really step up as we approach the season.”