Upfront: The League Express opinion – Mon 27th June 2022
FORTY years ago, Leigh were Rugby League’s reigning champions.
Now owner Derek Beaumont is working to not only get the Centurions back to the top flight, but to create a set-up that will enable the club to “compete at the top end”.
That’s something Leigh have been unable to do in three previous Super League stints – in 2005, 2017 and last year.
There were basement finishes in the first and third of those dismal seasons, while the second ended with a Million Pound Game defeat by Catalans Dragons following the Qualifiers.
While Beaumont – whose firm AB Sundecks sponsors the 1895 Cup, which Leigh won by beating Featherstone Rovers at Tottenham in May – can be controversial, he is a shrewd and successful businessman.
He is also prepared to continue pumping money into the club, with whom he first became involved at board level in 2004.
Leigh split opinion, with some arguing that both the Centurions, the current Championship leaders, and Featherstone, the two clubs considered by most to be fighting it out for promotion from the division, are too small to survive in the higher competition, never mind add anything to it, and that the likes of big-city sides London Broncos, Newcastle Thunder and York City Knights should be added via a return to a franchise system.
Having said that, the last time Beaumont and his club clinched promotion, it was through a bidding process, given the 2020 season had ended early due to the pandemic and exit of Toronto Wolfpack from Super League.
Others believe what happens on the pitch should be the sole factor that determines which club plays in which division.
However it comes about, Beaumont wants Leigh to be back in the top flight, as shown by the recruitment of Chris Chester as head of rugby and Adrian Lam as coach and the construction of a powerful playing pool that looks a good deal stronger than last year’s.
And the signing of Warrington winger Josh Charnley through to 2024 and a three-year contract extension for high-impact hooker Edwin Ipape, who could be a star of the World Cup with Papua New Guinea this year and has been tracked by a strong of existing Super League clubs, is a real statement of intent.
As Beaumont said: “When bringing Chris and Adrian on board it was based on a three-to-five-year plan. I am backing them by securing longer-term deals.
“I am not taking anything for granted concerning this year. I am simply hell bent on and committed to getting into Super League with a team that can compete at the top end.”
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.