Why Chris Chester is backing Leigh Leopards to end Super League yo-yo years

CHRIS CHESTER is confident Leigh will have sufficient squad strength to shrug off the absence of Blake Ferguson and still make an impact on their return to Super League.

The former NRL, Queensland and Australia winger, who scored 21 tries in 17 games as Adrian Lam’s side won both the 1895 Cup and promotion from the Championship this year, was contracted until 2024 but is being released on compassionate grounds amid a family health issue.

Head of rugby Chester is working through the details of departure with the 32-year-old, and is ready to continue building a playing pool which he and ex-Wigan coach Lam reckon can rid the ambitious club, rebranded as Leigh Leopards, of their ‘yo-yo’ tag.

This will be a fourth tilt at top-flight rugby in the summer era, and in each previous case (2005, 2017 and 2021) Leigh have lasted just one season.

But Chester, who coached Hull KR and Wakefield in Super League before his change of role at Leigh, where he was appointed in September of last year in the wake of relegation, firmly believes that trend can be bucked.

“We’re not going in there just to survive,” said the 44-year-old, who played alongside Lam at Wigan and has led another wide-scale recruitment drive.

“It’s been a good year on and off the pitch, and we want to maintain that progress.

“We’re realistic, and accept it’s a big step up, which most clubs, including this one, have found difficult to bridge.

“But we have the benefit of a determined owner (Derek Beaumont) who has been willing to invest.

“In the past, promoted clubs have by necessity been late to start recruiting, and in some cases have been left to effectively pick up the scraps.

“But thanks to Derek’s backing, we were able to start recruiting pretty aggressively before the end of the season, and that has helped put us in a pretty good place, with some capacity remaining.

“I’d like to think we will be able to challenge for a top-six spot, and if we had to start the season with the group we have now, I’d be happy.

“We are still looking to add to the squad, but there is no panic and we won’t be rushed.”