Talk about the haves and the have nots.
From the top to the bottom of the ever-interesting Championship, there’s a big difference – obviously in terms of points, but also player pools, finances and what the future holds.
Leaders Leigh Centurions, bolstered by the ambition, determination and deep pockets of owner Derek Beaumont, are planning for a fourth stab at Super League. And while promotion has to be earned first, Adrian Lam’s side are firm favourites to go up, their status enhanced by a third victory of the season over Featherstone Rovers at the recent Summer Bash, then their 52-20 win over Barrow.
Meanwhile, basement dwellers Workington Town are not just staring relegation straight in the face – the board are also making desperate attempts to keep the club afloat.
A squad already struggling to compete after promotion from League One through last season’s play-offs has been further depleted after a request for players and staff members to take a pay cut in a bid to ease a position described as “fragile”.
While many have agreed, some chose to leave, which is, of course, both their right and understandable, especially given the country’s ongoing cost of living crisis.
Workington’s situation is worrying not just for the proud old club, formed in 1945 and founder members of Super League in 1996, and a loyal fanbase, but also for the game as a whole.
The many knock-on effects of the pandemic, particularly financial, shouldn’t be forgotten, and where Workington are now, other clubs could well follow.
Forty years on from winning the league title, Leigh supporters are enjoying another so-far successful campaign.
An already-strong side has been further reinforced by the recruitment of the coach’s son and Papua New Guinea halfback Lachlan Lam from Sydney Roosters in the wake of the acquisition of winger Josh Charnley, an England international, from Warrington Wolves.
They have been signed until 2023 and 2025 respectively, and Leigh have also recently extended the contracts of such as talented Kumuls hooker Edwin Ipape, who was sought after by a number of existing Super League clubs, halfback Joe Mellor and their powerful former Australia and New South Wales winger Blake Ferguson.
Following last season’s Super League struggle, it’s a clear sign that Beaumont and head of rugby Chris Chester want not just to pave the way back to the top flight, but do their best to ensure that, if that happens, Leigh will be more competitive and buck a trend of suffering an immediate return to the second tier, as happened in 2005 and 2016 as well as last year.
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