‘Let’s move on’ from John Asiata row, urges Leigh Leopards boss Adrian Lam

LEIGH LEOPARDS coach Adrian Lam insists he had no hesitation in playing captain John Asiata against Wigan Warriors on Saturday.

The Leigh skipper has been the hot topic of conversation throughout the Rugby League world following St Helens coach Paul Wellens’ criticism of his tackling technique.

During their Betfred Challenge Cup semi-final win over St Helens, a number of Asiata’s tackles came under scrutiny following serious injuries to Alex Walmsley and Agnatius Paasi.

Asiata was not suspended for the tackles, although Wellens called out the Rugby Football League for not protecting his players.

Wellens labelled the Leigh skipper as being “out of control”, but RFL disciplinary officials described the former North Queensland Cowboys and Brisbane Broncos player’s challenges as “legitimate.”

The row has threatened to overshadow Leigh’s progress to a first Wembley appearance since 1971, when the Challenge Cup was won with victory over Leeds.

Leigh take on Hull KR at Wembley on Saturday week, August 12.

Asiata, 30, who has represented both Samoa and Tonga, was signed from Brisbane ahead of last season, when he helped Lam’s side win both promotion from the Championship and the 1895 Cup.

Last week he was the subject of threats from some anonymous posters on various forms of social media.

“John’s character is second to none,” Lam told BBC Radio Manchester.

“I’ve watched him as a player, person and family man.

“There is no better person in this world than him in terms of his morals and the way that he plays his game. He has no intention to ever hurt anyone.

“He is a great leader, he’s what this club is all about and he has taken us forward into the future with his leadership.”

Meanwhile Leigh owner Derek Beaumont tweeted: “Asiata plays tough and tackles big men low that try to target running over him. Nothing more.

“He has made those tackles week in, week out and never been charged. Asiata is a class player and a class human.”

Lam is clearly tired of talking about the tackles, and he believes that everyone needs to move on.

“I am disappointed that it is where it is, with it being out there,” said Lam after Saturday’s game.

“I think it is embarrassing that we keep addressing the situation. Let’s move on.

“In the past he has been one of the leaders in our sport and our game. Everything he does, on the field, off the field, with his family he is as good as it gets.

“I had no concerns about John playing this week. I have no concerns moving forward in all the other rounds as well.”

Lam admits he moves on quickly from bad results and he feels everyone at the club will soon put the 44-18 defeat to Wigan behind them as they push on in the Super League and build up for the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley.

“Wigan were coming off a loss that they wanted to see a response to,” added Lam.

“Wigan played their part and were very good in everything they did.

“I move on really quickly as a coach with my philosophy on situations like this. We don’t become a bad team overnight, but if you turn up and your attitude is not quite right in any competition, you are going to get hurt like that.

“We have to make sure we get focused for next week and get that right leading into the next week (at Wembley). We have to move on quickly from this performance.”

Meanwhile Leigh look likely to sign former Wigan and England centre Oliver Gildart for the rest of the season and prior to the signing deadline this Friday.

Gildart, 26, has spent two seasons in the NRL, initially with Wests Tigers, then with Sydney Roosters in 2022, before switching to The Dolphins this year, but so far he has failed to secure a first-team place and has spent the season playing in the Queensland Cup with the Central Queensland Capras.