For Kieron Purtill, this week was 20 years in the making.
After a long journey in the coaching world, Purtill finally landed his first permanent head coaching opportunity as Leigh appointed him until the end of the season.
It’s hard to argue that he didn’t deserve it.
Having spent years honing his craft as an assistant at St Helens and Huddersfield before taking up a similar role at Leigh, Purtill was thrust into the head coaching stratosphere with a Centurions side in crisis after a woeful start to the Championship season that had left their top four hopes in tatters.
However, a remarkable turnaround consisting of 11 straight wins has propelled Leigh back into the top four picture, as well as earn them a place in the Challenge Cup quarter-final.
Purtill has waited for his opportunity more than anyone, and although he insists it is of little significance, he’s determined to prove his worth by taking the Centurions back to the top.
“It’s taken 20 years and it has been a long journey with plenty of ups and downs,” he said.
“There have been plenty of good times, but also in that ride times where I’ve questioned whether it’s something I want to pursue or keep going. But at the back of it all was the burning ambition to be a head coach that has kept me going. You work hard, give the best you’ve got and don’t walk away when things get tough, hopefully that mantra is rubbing off on the team as well.
“When I left St Helens and Huddersfield at the time, you go into those jobs hoping one day you’ll get the chance to be a head coach and when it doesn’t materialise you question yourself and what you’re doing. The middle of this year was a tough time, losing the games, especially at your hometown club that you’ve represented and captained. There were some dark places but we’ve come through the other side. It’s an opportunity I’ve been waiting for.
“There’s not really much changed other than that caretaker word be removed. Nothing will change, not in myself. The last 12 weeks have almost been a job interview and I guess what is coming up is the same as well. Every time you get a win on the board it strengthens your place.”
Despite their excellent form, Leigh aren’t out of the woods yet. They still sit outside the top four and have tough games ahead, starting with Toronto in the main event of this year’s Summer Bash.
“Not many will go on the run we’ve done and not be certain of the four, but that’s down to our poor start of the season, that’s the brutal reality.
“It’s something we’re constantly reminding them of. We’ve achieved nothing yet other than give ourselves a chance. It just proves that you can jump up the table quickly with wins but it can work the other way too.
“We’ve always said this block of games will be very important to where we end up. We just have to concentrate on us and keep picking wins up. We have to manage that as a group and keep humble, along with producing the goods on game day.”
Their game with the Wolfpack will inevitably draw attention given the animosity between the sides, and Purtill shifted the pressure on the league leaders ahead of the game.
“Toronto are sat on top of the pile and we’ll be going in as underdogs. They’ve been building as the year goes on and we didn’t play particularly well the first day. It’s a tough test and one we’re looking forward to.
“We’re fully confident. We won’t be overawed and if we look after ourselves we have been doing a lot of good things and we’ll be able to cause them some problems.”