Leigh Centurions centre Iain Thornley is eager to grab the Centurions’ unexpected shot back in Super League this year with both hands.
John Duffy’s squad had been preparing themselves for a Championship campaign that would have seen several players, including Thornley, play on a part-time basis.
Even when Toronto were refused re-entry to the top flight, most at Leigh have admitted they expected one of their five rival applicants to get the nod.
But the seven-person panel unanimously voted to hand the Centurions the twelfth place at the top table this year, following an impressive application. And having penned a new full-time deal, former Wigan, Catalans and Hull KR player Thornley wants to make the most of the opportunity.
“I’ve missed it for the past two seasons, so it will be nice to get back to the top level in front of the cameras, playing a high level of rugby every week,” he says.
“I’ll appreciate it more this time because I’ve had those two years working and trying to play at the same time, so I know how long the days can be.
“It gives me an extra push – I want to train hard, play hard and win more now, because I know how difficult it’s been.
“I don’t want to ruin this chance or not appreciate it, because being a full-time athlete is a nice thing.
“But I’ve got to be honest, it’s a massive challenge.
“We’ve still got a bit of recruitment to do because the squad isn’t at 25 or 26 players yet, and we know we have some catching up to do with the speed of the game.
“It’s a massive step up and a short space of time to get to that level, but we’re confident and feel happy that the hard stuff we’re doing now in pre-season will get us there.
“There are ten weeks before the start of the season and we’ll knuckle down at get to that level.
“We want to make sure we’re not there just to make up the numbers and that we deserve to be in Super League and stay there.”
Thornley made a deliberate step down to the Championship at the start of the 2019 season as he began to plan for life after rugby with an electrician apprenticeship.
He has spent the last two years combining studies at college with working on the job at local firm GenLec, and has now “80 percent” finished his qualification, allowing him to have another shot in Super League at the age of 29.
“I was full-time from being 18, so I had probably nine years altogether,” explains Thornley, who was actually re-wiring a hotel in Manchester at the time of Super League announcement.
“When Leigh had a big change around with staff and players, I knew Duffs (John Duffy) well and it was good timing for me, because I wanted to get something behind me for life after rugby.
“He asked if I’d come and help and get something in place for after rugby, so it suited everybody at the time.
“Now I’ve pretty much got that done I can relax a bit on that front and totally concentrate on my rugby.
“I’m thankful to Duffs and everyone behind the scenes at Leigh for that.
“I’ve had a tough two years working and playing part-time – it’s been really hard and I don’t know how the lads that have done it for years do it. It’s definitely not easy.
“We’d had conversations in the past that if they got into Super League then they’d want me to come with them, but it just a case of wait and see if that happens before we talk.
“I’d already signed a part-time Championship contract, and if we’d have stayed there then I’d always have been there.
“I knew we’d have to have a chat because I’d be giving up one job and losing half an income, but I always wanted to stay on the journey.
“It’s only two years ago when Duffs first got there that we didn’t have any training gear at the start of pre-season and were all wearing our own stuff.
“We pretty much started from scratch and the fact that I was here then meant I wanted to carry on being part of it.”
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