Schoey: Duffy picked up a poisoned chalice at Leigh

Commiserations to John Duffy on his departure from Leigh, which came as a surprise to me.

I think it’s another case of a coach paying the price for the shortcomings of his players.

There didn’t appear to be a problem with their attitude, and the whole squad seemed to be giving everything they could.

But in my view, there is a problem with quality, and as I’ve said several times already this season, Leigh just don’t look able to compete at the necessary level for long enough in matches to win the sufficient number needed to stay up.

They have produced good spells, such as in the opening-night game against Wigan, which seems a long time ago now.

But to have a chance of winning, you have to do it for at least 60 minutes, and against most sides in Super League, that simply looks beyond them.

It was always going to be tough for John to assemble a good-enough or deep-enough squad, because given the way Leigh were elevated to Super League via that long drawn out bidding process, every other club had a head start when it came to recruitment.

John is a good coach who has tried to learn his trade the right way, picking up experience at Swinton and Featherstone before joining Leigh, a club he had a feel for, having been a popular player there.

But he said himself that being a head coach in Super League had come earlier than he had expected or planned, and in the circumstances, it always seemed to be a bit of a poisoned chalice.

I hope this season doesn’t end up defining him as a coach, because I think he has a lot to offer and I hope he bounces back.

Meanwhile, a variety of names have been linked with the job, including Paul Rowley, who of course has been there before, Andrew Henderson, Lee Briers, who I have a lot of time for, Andy Last, Kieron Purtill and Mickey Higham.

So was Tim Sheens, before it was confirmed he will return to Wests Tigers as ‘head of football performance’.

To be fair, I think even Craig Bellamy, Ivan Cleary or the ‘guru’ of modern coaching Wayne Bennett, never mind Tim Sheens, would have their work cut out keeping Leigh in the top flight, it’s such a tough ask.


Congratulations to Castleford on a first Challenge Cup final appearance since 2014.

That semi-final win over Warrington was fully deserved, and I’m looking forward to seeing if they can beat St Helens at Wembley and mark Daryl Powell’s last season in charge with at least one trophy.

While the Cas forwards really ripped in and laid the platform for the backs – and what a great hat-trick that was by Jordan Turner – I thought Warrington’s performance was distinctly on the soft side.

Saints versus Hull was an entertaining clash between two quality sides and tighter than the 33-18 scoreline suggests.

The Black and Whites just had a phase where they let Saints get away from them, and in Regan Grace, Kristian Woolf has a great finisher.

As for the controversial Theo Fages try, I don’t think he did anything wrong in picking up the ball when Josh Griffin went down.

You’re taught at an early age to play to the whistle, and in the heat of the moment, he wouldn’t have known Griffin had such a nasty injury.

Hull play Cas in Super League on Thursday, and I think Brett Hodgson’s side will bounce back and win by ten.

But I’m not sure Warrington will do the same against Wakefield on Friday, and I reckon Trinity could pull off a ten-point triumph.

There’s an intriguing Leeds-Saints clash at Headingley, and I’m backing Richard Agar’s men to build on their recent big victory over Cas and win by eight.

Huddersfield versus Wigan is an interesting one – I’m predicting the Giants by seven – but I think Hull KR will have too much for Salford and win by 20.

Meanwhile, even with home advantage, Leigh have a tough test in store against Catalans, and I’m going the Dragons by 26.


It’s good to see Bradford back at Odsal, and hopefully it’s another step on the road back to Super League at some point in the future.

It could, of course, be next year, because if the Bulls make the play-offs, you never know.

Admittedly, it’s a long shot, since Toulouse look terrific and Featherstone pretty strong also.

But Bradford have a new chairman, and in John Kear, a very experienced coach who has so often shown he can get his sides to peak for big matches, plus an experienced and capable squad.

They also have great supporters, and they’re the people I’m most pleased for now they can watch their team, albeit in limited numbers, at the famous old ground.

The Bulls need to be playing at their spiritual home – not Valley Parade, the Horsfall Stadium or Dewsbury, but Odsal, and let’s be fair, a buoyant Bradford, with their strong following both home and away, would be great for Super League.

There are issues to solve, not least the width of the pitch, but by returning to the scene of all those memorable matches of the Bullmania era, those now running the club have shown they mean business.

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