Leigh Centurions’ new head coach John Duffy’s first signing sees the return of Martyn Ridyard to the Leigh Sports Village.
Ridyard, 32, rejoins his hometown club from Featherstone Rovers, having made what proved to be his final appearance for Rovers in their Betfred Championship Shield final victory over the Centurions in October.
John Duffy said: “Martyn is a big signing and a massive statement of our intent. He’s a local lad and our strategy is all about recruiting Leigh lads who want to play for the club. I’m sure his signing will be highly popular with the fans and I’d like to thank Featherstone for working with us in Martyn’s best interests so he could come home. For family reasons Martyn wanted to cut down his travelling and time away from home and Featherstone have been really understanding with his position.
“I played alongside Martyn at Leigh and since I retired as a player have really seen him develop year on year. He is a very talented and clever footballer and is smart under pressure. He will be pivotal to our plans and as a big game player will lead from the front.
“Martyn was brilliant to coach at Fev last season and signing him for Leigh made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. He never wanted to leave Leigh in the first place so is made up to be coming home.”
Leigh Centurions chairman Mike Latham said: “It is fantastic to be able to name our first new recruit as Martyn Ridyard. He is the perfect example of the club’s intentions to reinstate ‘Leigh’ into the club and given Martyn’s length of service to the club and his roots in Leigh there is no better person to be the catalyst of John’s recruitment drive.
“I would like to place on record our appreciation of Featherstone Rovers recognising what is in Martyn’s family’s best interests and furthermore for not detracting from this with what has been raised with the John Duffy situation, which is separate and which occurred after our talks began regarding Martyn.
“I can’t wait to see Martyn back in a Leigh shirt and know his return will be very popular with the fans. He has always been in many people’s eyes the best halfback in the Championship and he had a hand in a lot of what was good at Featherstone. He is highly committed to helping the club he loves rebuild itself in order that it can again mount a challenge in the future to achieve its dream of becoming an established Super League side.”
Martyn Ridyard said: “Everything has happened really quickly and since the move was confirmed I’ve been feeling giddy.
“Featherstone were really understanding with my reasons for wanting to leave which were based around family and travel issues. Mark Campbell is a great bloke and he and everyone at the club made me welcome from day one. The fans were brilliant with me and the season, playing under Duffs, was one of my most enjoyable as a player.
“We had a great team spirit at Fev and got some great wins early season and were sitting pretty until an injury crisis hit us. I played alongside some great lads and I wish the club nothing but the best in the future.
“For me it’s all about unfinished business.
“I’ve only been away a year and never wanted to leave and so I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to come back. It makes it extra special.
“Playing under Duffs this year was brilliant and I can’t wait for the new season to start. He’s a tough taskmaster but he makes every training session enjoyable and everyone wants to play for him. Training at night, doing the hard stuff often in freezing conditions can be really testing, but under Duffs you come away with a smile on your face feeling it was so worthwhile. Attitude and commitment from his players are what he expects and what he gets.
“Duffs says that talent wins games but that team spirit and togetherness win trophies.
“With him, Ando and Micky (Paul Anderson and Micky Higham) at the helm that togetherness will be important as a new side blends together. They have big plans and the environment they will create will make sure everyone plays to the best of their ability and enjoys their rugby.
“It’s brilliant being back at Leigh Centurions. There are some really good people at the club. Like I say, I’m giddy.
“It’s good to be home.”