Rugby League World says
Musicians often talk about the difficult second album, the pressures of living up to the expectations of what’s gone before. But for Leigh Leopards that can equate to second season syndrome.
After starting last year as one of the favourites to go straight back down following their promotion from the Championship, the Leopards stunned just about everyone, taking Super League by storm and adding to an incredible Challenge Cup Final win by easily qualifying for the play-offs.
Repeating that feat this year will be top of their agenda to prove they are no flash in the plan, and they have made Matt Moylan their headline signing with the aim of doing that.
Their nearest challengers have all strengthened too though and the race for the final play-off places looks closer than ever, adding to the Leopards’ challenge.
But even if they don’t quite do it, it certainly won’t be for the lack of trying.
Three to watch
John Asiata was one of Leigh’s best performers in 2023, a wrecking ball in the heart of a dangerous middle unit. But the captain’s tackle technique came under scrutiny from opposition coaches as the season wore on, and it will do so from officials this year after challenges to the lower leg were banned.
Ricky Leutele was forced to miss the Leopards’ historic run to the Challenge Cup final after suffering a spinal injury in July. Beforehand, he had been another superb performer, making huge ground with his powerful carries from centre. If he can rediscover that form upon his return and make up for lost time, he will take some stopping.
Matt Moylan is Leigh’s headline signing for 2024, signed to team up with coach’s son Lachlan Lam in the halves. Ben Reynolds did a great job in the position but the club feel they have made a significant upgrade by bringing in the once-capped Australian international, an NRL veteran with Penrith and Cronulla.
Did you know?
Leigh became the first rugby league club to pay £5,000 for a player when they splashed out to sign Joe Egan from neighbours Wigan in 1950. The Great Britain hooker who also took on the coaching duties topped 100 appearances before returning to take charge of Wigan in 1956.
1 Gareth O’Brien, 2 Tom Briscoe, 3 Zak Hardaker, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Josh Charnley, 6 Matt Moylan, 7 Lachlan Lam, 8 Tom Amone, 9 Edwin Ipape, 10 Robbie Mulhern, 11 Kai O’Donnell, 12 Jack Hughes, 13 John Asiata, 14 Dan Norman, 15 Matt Davis, 16 Frankie Halton, 17 Owen Trout, 18 Ben Nakubuwai, 19 Ed Chamberlain, 20 Oliver Holmes, 21 Ben McNamara, 22 Keanan Brand, 23 Nathan Wilde, 24 Umyla Hanley, 25 Tom Nisbet, 26 Jacob Gannon, 28 Jacob Jones, 29 Lewis Baxter, 30 Louis Brogan, 31 Jack Derbyshire, 32 Kavan Rothwell.
Tom Briscoe needs 14 appearances for 350 in Super League…
Josh Charnley needs 9 tries for 300 in his career…
Zak Hardaker needs 4 tries for both 150 in his career and 100 in Super League…
Gareth O’Brien needs 61 points for 1,500 in his career
RLW predicts: 6th
First published in Rugby League World magazine, Issue 492 (January 2024)