Leigh Leopards star Zak Hardaker hails Derek Beaumont’s ‘brilliant’ opening night

ZAK HARDAKER has praised Leigh Leopards owner Derek Beaumont for putting on a show for the club’s Super League return.

Last Friday’s season opener against Salford Red Devils at Leigh Sports Village was preceded by an hour of entertainment, including music from indie band Scouting for Girls and daring pyrotechnic displays on the pitch from The Fuel Girls.

It was a decidedly loud way for Leigh to announce both their return to the top-flight and their rebrand as the Leopards and one of their star signings, fullback Zak Hardaker, had nothing but praise for Beaumont’s initiative.

He said: “I think it’s brilliant. Just walking to the stadium you heard the big roar (being played out with leopards projected onto the main stand). I had a chuckle at it, it was pretty good. 

“It’s a new experience, for the fans that haven’t come before or for the ones who have coming here for 40 years. People can laugh and joke about it and I think that’s what Derek wanted. He wanted an event that people would go away and talk about. 

“We missed all the Scouting for Girls stuff and the fire girls and whatever else was going on (the players had to warm-up at Leigh East’s nearby pitch). 

“But it was something for the club to celebrate, being back in Super League. Derek is really enthusiastic about what he wants to achieve and we’re all right behind him.”

That includes the rebrand as a whole, which Hardaker says has grown on the playing group.

“I don’t mind, it’s something that Derek is really passionate about and he is the owner, he pays the bills,” said Hardaker.

“It’s definitely grown (on us). In the first couple of weeks when we got the leopard-print T-shirts (we thought) ‘ooh, these are a bit tasty’. 

“But as the weeks have gone on, I think everyone has jumped on board. It’s good that we’re a bit different to everyone else.”

Leigh were beaten 20-10 by Salford but Hardaker was not too dispirited by the performance ahead of this Saturday’s trip to Catalans Dragons.

“I hate losing more than anyone, but I’m not too frustrated by the loss because performance-wise we played alright,” he reflected. 

“We just lacked experience in some areas, which was always going to happen; we’re a new team, going up to Super League, it was the first game of the season with a lot riding on it and a big build-up.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t get the job done, but I think there’s more lessons to be learned than questions to be answered.”