LEIGH LEOPARDS have been here before – three times in fact.
For the fourth time in Super League history, Leigh have been promoted from the second tier. Unfortunately, in those other three seasons, they have been relegated at the first time of asking.
Now, things feel a little different at the Leigh Sports Village.
Behind the new rebrand, which saw the previous ‘Centurions’ transform into the ‘Leopards’, was outspoken and charismatic owner Derek Beaumont.
Beaumont himself has been an ardent Leigh backer for almost a decade, keeping the club afloat with his own time and money.
In front of him are head of rugby Chris Chester and head coach Adrian Lam – two men who have Super League experience as head coaches and who have been there and done it as a player.
At Lam’s disposal is a bulk of incredible talent, not least Papua New Guinean sensation Edwin Ipape who set the Championship alight in 2022.
But, bankrolled by Beaumont, the Leopards have added class to that Championship-winning squad in the shape of former Leeds Rhinos star Zak Hardaker, ex-Huddersfield Giants centre Ricky Leutele and former Castleford Tigers playmaker Gareth O’Brien.
Yes, the Leopards have lost Nene MacDonald, Sam Stone and Blake Ferguson, but they have that Super League experience, not least in the shape of former Warrington Wolves quartet Jack Hughes, Matt Davis, Rob Mulhern and Oliver Holmes.
In the halves, Lachlan Lam is ready to partner Ben Reynolds, with Joe Mellor also possessing Super League qualities, whist the Leopards’ forward pack is still under construction.
The Leopards still have one quota spot left to use – and it’s likely to be a name that will fit into the forward pack.
Leigh’s opening game of the 2023 season comes against the surprise package of 2022 in the Salford Red Devils before Lam’s men travel to the Catalans Dragons.
It’s certainly a tough start, but the Leopards will definitely not be pushovers next season.