The Self-Isolation Chronicles: Leigh Centurions

1. They signed the world’s fastest man in 1953.

Emmanuel McDonald Bailey had just represented Great Britain in the 1952 Helsinki, where he won a bronze medal in the 100m. The Trinidadian-born sprinter had dominated the 100m and 200m in the Amateur Athletic Association Championships, winning both in the same year on seven occasions. His career highlight came in 1951, where he equalled the world record of 10.2 seconds in the 100m, set by Jesse Owens in the famous Berlin games of 1936. His record stood well into the 1960s, long after a one-game spell with Leigh. The club lured him to Rugby League, not the first venture to team sports as he had trained with Queens Park Rangers in 1948, in a move they vehemently denied was a publicity stunt. On reflection, it probably was. Bailey made only one appearance for the club, scoring a try in an 11-3 win over Wigan which was specially arranged, with just shy of 15,000 people flocking to the game. Despite a dip into the professional world of sport, that saw him pocket £1,000, Bailey was accepted back into athletics, eventually, as he coached the Trinidad and Tobago team at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.

2. One of their former players arrested a nudist.

Rex “Moose” Mossop was revered and loathed in equal measure during his playing and commentary career, with a bruising playing-style and a similar hard-hitting approach on the mic. He joined Leigh in 1952, in delicate circumstances, an international transfer ban imposed on British Rugby League clubs meant they were unable to sign players from Australia. Leigh exercised a loophole and signed Mossop from rugby union, as he was playing for Manly RUFC as well as the national side. He stayed for three seasons at Leigh, and once claimed to have been the first person in the town to have a shower installed in his house. After returning to Manly with the club of his heart, Manly Seagulls, he would represent Australia in Rugby League as well before retiring in 1960. 16 years later, he hit the headlines for making a citizen’s arrest of a nudist he claimed was walking through the garden of his family home. The man, who was on his way home from a nudist beach, was pounced on by Mossop as he put his trousers back on. A spectator at a game Mossop was working at, the following week,  made a jeer to him during the live commentary. His response was to grab him by the hair, continue speaking and smash him in the face with a few backhanders.

3. Jarrod Sammut has a spelling mistake in one of his tattoos.

One of Leigh’s newest additions, Maltese dual-code international Sammut has always stood out as one of Super League’s most vibrant characters. An equal fruitful career has seen him feature for Crusaders, Bradford and Wakefield in Super League, before a drop of to the Championship with Workington Town. He climbed back to the top flight, with London Broncos, and turned out for the biggest club of his career in Wigan Warriors after a career rebuild. Now back in the second tier, with Leigh, Sammut has the opportunity to justify his existence on these shores again. Or would that be existance? Sammut’s chest tattoo mistakenly reads “Justify your existance,” an error he would only realise two weeks later after being inked a decade ago. He’s not the only enigmatic half-back to have graced these shores to have a tattoo typo, either, Todd Carney has a back tattoo that reads: “Life’s to short.”

4. One of their star players survived a potentially deadly virus and then a 30-foot fall from scaffolding.

The end of the Victorian era was a weird time for Leigh. In the 1899-1900 season, star halfbacks Harry Dunbavin and Jimmy Molyneux were both unavailable for selection for very contrasting reasons. Dunbavin had caught Typhoid Fever, a bacterial infection that affects major organs and can even be fatal, while Molyneux was missing due to being unemployed from December to February. As a result, the club only scored five tries in 17 games, in 1902-1903, they went one worse and went 22 games without scoring a try. The following season, Dunbavin was again the victim of a bizarre circumstance to rule him out of selection. He fell 30-foot from a scaffold and was ruled out for the entire season. How he survived and continued playing for the next two seasons is a miracle. As if fighting a potentially life-threatening disease wasn’t enough.

5. Derek Beaumont hosted the ‘Full Monty’ nationwide promotional tour.

Leigh owner Beaumont has always been a vocal figure in the sport, and what an interesting life he has had indeed. Where do we start? He’s a black belt in karate, was once the number one double-glazing salesman for one of the leading companies in the country (not Cachet Windows), won a battle with drug addiction, wanted to be a priest growing up but became a hairdresser and has had several driving offences as well. But all that seems rather mundane and trivial when you find out, in 1997, he hosted the nationwide promotional tour of “The Full Monty.” Beaumont had turned to being a DJ, in his younger years, and was compered to John Smith’s (not the beer) tour of the film. Models Melinda Messenger and Cathy Lloyd were the judges at the final event in Nottingham. The real star of the show, in our eyes, is Beaumont.