The Garry Schofield Column: My prediction for Leigh Leopards in Super League 2024

TURN the clock back twelve months and we were all wondering whether Leigh could break their unwanted habit of lasting just one season in Super League after joining the top table for the fourth time.

They had gone straight back down in 2005, 2017 and 2021, and I remember writing that their top priority was simply to stay among the big boys, and predicted a final position of eleventh.

I don’t think I was the only person thinking that way, and I recall owner Derek Beaumont being blasted for his rebrand of the club as the Leopards, and head of rugby Chris Chester raising more than a few eyebrows by saying that the squad he and Adrian Lam had assembled, which many saw as being top-heavy with journeymen, was capable of making the play-offs.

Well they certainly provided a convincing response.

Wembley Way was a sea of leopard-print clothing before and after the Challenge Cup Final, which Leigh won in such dramatic fashion with that golden-point field-goal by Lachlan Lam against Hull KR.

And, of course, they also made the play-offs via a fifth-place finish, which exceeded all external expectations.

It wasn’t quite a fairy-tale ending, because Hull KR gained revenge for their Challenge Cup Final defeat by eliminating Leigh at the first stage.

But all in all, it was an impressive campaign, and one which Leythers will remember for a long time to come.

As with Hull KR, it’s been refreshing to see a club that has been through some rough times emerge as a genuine force and provide a challenge to the so-called ‘big boys’.

There are still some doubters, with people talking of ‘second-season syndrome’ and questioning whether Leigh can repeat last season’s level of achievement.

It don’t buy into that, because I know Derek and I know his dedication to not just the club, but the town as a whole, and I know his determination to keep the Leopards firmly on the prowl.

Whatever way Rugby League goes over the forthcoming years, and however the IMG era unfolds, he will want his club to be at the forefront, and as well as the desire and nous, he has the finances to help underpin that mission.

I think Leigh have tweaked their squad cleverly, and the addition of Aussie halfback Matt Moylan from Cronulla is a really good one.

He has a heap of NRL experience, and his partnership with Lachlan Lam has the potential to be one of the most exciting, entertaining and effective in the whole of Super League.

And the existing players also have a season of Super League experience under their belts. 

My main concern is what will happen if they suffer a spate of injuries, because they seemed to steer relatively clear of such problems in 2023.

But that can happen to any club, and if it does, it’s a case of getting on with things.

The other thing Leigh will want to address is that slip in standards after their Wembley appearance, with five defeats in seven, culminating in that play-off eliminator loss at Craven Park.

But Adrian Lam is an experienced coach, and it’s clear Leigh have assembled a group of players who buy into his methods and the way he wants to play the game, and they enjoy the culture that has been created within the club and on the training ground.

I expect to see Leigh not only back in the play-offs, but going further in them than last year.

Leigh Leopards – 3rd