Leigh Leopards swoop for ex-Hull FC and St Helens assistant ahead of Super League 2023

LEIGH Leopards have continued their impressive backroom staff recruitment with the appointment of former Hull FC assistant coach Kieron Purtill as Head of Youth and Women’s Rugby League.

Purtill, 45, was head coach of the club in the 2018 season after taking over from Neil Jukes. Despite a run of 18 wins in 22 Championship games under his charge, Leigh just failed to make the top four and after taking the club to the Shield Final against Featherstone Rovers he left to take over as head coach of Widnes Vikings. More recently he has been assistant coach at Hull FC until the end of last season.

Purtill is a highly regarded level 4 coach who has worked alongside some of the game’s most highly regarded coaches since his playing career at Leigh was cruelly ended by a recurring shoulder injury in 2002.

Kieron Purtill said: “It is an exciting time to join Leigh Leopards, especially after the success the team had on the pitch last season as well as the recent rebrand.

“One of the things that the town has been crying out for is a pathway from the junior ranks to the senior team and I am delighted to be involved in making it happen.

“It is also an honour to coach the first Women’s Super League team associated with Leigh Leopards. The growth and coverage of the women’s game is extremely positive, and I am excited to get involved with that project.”

After signing for Leigh from Wigan St Pats, Kieron followed his elder brother Dean in playing for the club and earned Heritage Number 1146. He made 85 appearances for the club, scoring 18 tries with one drop-goal and was a member of the Leigh side that lost to Dewsbury Rams 13-12 in the Premiership Grand Final in 2000 at Gigg Lane.

Purtill worked for St Helens initially under Ian Millward from 2002-2005, for Huddersfield Giants from 2006-2008 and then returned to Saints from 2009-2012 before returning to the Giants, prior to returning to Leigh initially as assistant coach after the 2016 season. He was appointed coach to Canada in 2010 and he also had a highly successful spell as coach to the England Knights.

Leigh Leopards owner Derek Beaumont said: “Kieron is someone I have always held in high regard and is highly respected within the game. His attention to detail and work ethic are second to none and he has a wealth of experience, working with some of the game’s best coaches, including leading our own team in recent years where I got to see him operate first hand.

“I have always had a vision for Kieron to be the person to build our academy which is something I have always craved. Whilst we do not have permission yet to operate an academy, I feel it’s vital to appoint Kieron to start building the infrastructure and to inject the community clubs with his knowledge and skills and to build on the under-14/15s programme we started this year.

“Whilst he builds towards a fully operating academy structure, he will take charge of the Leigh Leopards Women’s team which is a massive coup for us and our vision of reaching Super League 1. The former Miners Women’s team, which I know well and have sponsored from the onset, have some really committed and skilful players and adding such a high calibre coach to them will be a significant step forward in reaching our goals.

“I am really pleased to be able to bring Kieron back to the club as I was disappointed when we lost him through miscommunication when I was on holiday, but I am sure the additional experience gained during his time at Widnes and Hull FC will bring even more benefit to us.

“Kieron is a long term appointment and will be fully supported in building a successful women’s Super League 1 competitive team and to establish with guidance from the RFL a Category A Academy to bring the vast amount of talent that is being nurtured by our outstanding community clubs. This is one of the most exciting press releases I have had the pleasure of commenting on.”