25 years service to
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Big Mac Gone : Wed Sep 28, 2022 10:27 am  
12 Months ago, Leigh had no Director of Rugby, No Manager and a small group of players. Leigh had chewed up several managers, Jukes, Duffy, and Haggerty all without a good pedigree but seeming to share a friendship with the owner, Mr Derek john beaumont (sic).
There were a number of high profile managers available McDermott, Sheens, Lam, and Chester et al. There was certain disappointment when Chris Chester was appointed Director of Rugby, with many people thinking that he would combine this role with that of managing the team. Chezzy is not universally loved at his former clubs Hull KR and Wakefield, but it seemed a step up for Leigh from Jukes, Duffy, and Haggerty.

It later emerged that Leigh was still seeking a manager, but many of the experienced managers had been snapped up or left these shores. Lam was appointed in mid-November with sufficient fanfare that the BBC even reported the event. Leigh fans seemed indifferent to a manager who was first and foremost a Pie and secondary a purveyor of turgid Rugby.
On the plus side he was well respected and had an exceptional career as a player. He dresses suave and looks the antithesis of John Duffy, the scruffy hobbit who rolled out of bed without fixing his hair.

Lam and Chester still only had a small squad with only 10 weeks before the first game of the season. Early training sessions, suggested they all turned up in a mini-cab. Arch rivals Featherstone who had finished 2nd in their customary bridesmaid role had snaffled the much respected Brian McDermott and strengthened the squad with some big names with big reputations, although at the back end of illustrious careers.

Lammy added former Wigan enforcer Tony Clubb and by the start of the season had a very small skeleton squad but with some real potential. The first game of the season featured a back line of Kieran Dixon, Keenan Brand and Tom Nisbet against a Whitehaven team that had finished the 2021 season in the top half and had been showing real signs of improvement. Leigh in a ragged attacking performance won the game 50-4.

If Leigh needed grounding the next fixture was at Featherstone’s Millenium Stadium (POR). A cold, wet and very muddy evening, Leigh got a masterclass in playing the conditions and the slope. Featherstone were good value for the 28-6 score line. To make matters worse Chris Green broke his arm and would be out for the season with surgery complications.
Featherstone fans lorded it over Leigh for the pursuing weeks, with Leigh playing catch up in February, March and April. The Leigh team needed to be bolstered by St Helens through the dual-reg system, fans favourite James Bell and some barnstorming performance from Dan Norman. New recruits arrived at the LSV, Krisnan Inu finally arrived from France, Edwin Ipape debuted at an away game at York on the 20th February and Kai O’Donnell arrived for Widnes away in the Easter fixture.

The Centurions unveiled their master signing Blake Ferguson in the home fixture on the 22nd May. This was the week after a masterclass of power and strength away at Batley’s Mount Unpleasant with the final score settling at an impressive 0-52. Ferguson would score 4 tries on debut against Workington with a Cup Final scheduled for the week after in London. Leigh were starting to look formidable.

Featherstone still undefeated, had added two highly sort after players in Johnathon Ford and Mark Kheirallah and the Flat Cappers did crow over these signings believing they had stolen them from under the nose of Derek Beaumont. Deggsy stated that neither player would improve the Leigh squad. Rovers supporters believed this was bunkum.
The stage was set for the much awaited showdown between the rivals in this two (War)horse race to the Super League. 28th May New White Lane, would witness the curtain raiser to the Challenge Cup in the Derek inspired 1895 AB Sundeck Cup.

A tight and very tense game would finish with Leigh on top 16-30 and for the first time the Flat Cappers started to look tense. Big Mac and Mark Campbell had gone big with a fancy but part-time squad. Derek, Lammy and Chezzy had scoured the NRL for out of contract players and had gone bigger.
With Leigh winning the first silverware of the year, they would travel to Barrow with a much changed team, and nearly converted a win into a loss, this was a near wobble with Leigh snatching the 2 points in a 28-30 match with a missed kicked by the ever reliable Jarrod Sammut.

Leigh would recover their composure and nilled the much fancied Halifax Panthers, before another fixture with Featherstone 13th June. Featherstone desperate for revenge and to maintain their unbeaten record went down at the LSV 32-12.The Fev fans now had a taste of reality and sensed that Leigh was bigger, stronger and fitter, but Big Mac would prevail. Big Mac has a plan he will mastermind a Grand Final win, when all our players are back. The truth was that, however talent the Featherstone squad was, it was aging and part-time. Hope would not dwindle entirely until the 4th game between these arch rivals.

As a quirk of fate, the Summer Bash had paired up Featherstone and Leigh for the Headingley game. Leigh would go on to dominate this fixture with a comfortable 46-16 win. The last 3 fixtures seemed to show a gulf opening with only 6 weeks of the regular season to play for.
Fast forward to 25th September and the Championship Sem-final. Leigh with the earlier kick-off would go on to book a home fixture in the Grand final against an inventive York, but all eyes had already turned to Post Office Road for the tie of the round Featherstone Rovers v Batley Bulldogs.
Batley battled out of their skins to become the eventual winners in what was considered to be a foregone conclusion. The final will now be played out this weekend between Leigh and Batley for a place in Super League.

Featherstone went big and fell short, Big Mac proved to be a busted clog and Adrian Lam to be a shrewd manager. Lammy is so much more than 5 tackles and kick that was the trademark for last year’s Wigan team. Leigh have undergone a radical culture change, and there appears to be general happiness all round at the club. Chezzy is no longer haunted by the Wakefield fans blaming him for everything and Lammy was able to start a new project from the ground upwards. Derek deserves huge praise for funding the cultural revolution and appointing the right management team to get the job done. The good news is that we are not in position of weakness, all the key components look like they want to stay and complete the revolution, I do not foresee Lammy and Chezzy looking for new challenges outside of the LSV in the near future.

Just 80 minutes to go and hopefully the promised land awaits, only this time Leigh are ready for it and deserve it.
Re: Big Mac Gone : Wed Sep 28, 2022 11:47 am  
I still think there should be a buffer of a season for the promoted club before relegation threatens. Recruitment is always going to be a problem for the promoted club. A lot of business has already done by super league clubs before the Championship club to be promoted is known for certain. Trouble is I don't know what system could be used to facilitate this.
Wishing Leigh their deserved success in the final.
Re: Big Mac Gone : Wed Sep 28, 2022 4:20 pm  
Excellent analysis Septi of the season - to date. I've never been a fan myself of long rambling essays but yours was a good one which I enjoyed reading and reminiscing over.

It reminded this old codger of the quick passing of time. The season has been memorable, every bit of it, with perhaps the best bit yet to come on Sunday. Yes, the season started back in late January with dark, grey, often wet, wintry days which in some ways feels like a long, long time ago yet in many other ways the season has passed in the blink of an eye.

Suddenly, the last game of the season is upon us. Sunday should, and I think will be, the crowning moment of a truly great Leigh season. It should also be just the end of chapter one of what looks like being a great enterprise. Super League awaits us for next season and for the first time in living memory, or indeed at all, it looks like we may well have a more than an evens chance of staying up and, perhaps, even thriving there. I cannot wait either for Sunday or for next season, provided that we avoid a complete disaster occurring on Sunday - which we will!

Yes, it looks like we got the best coach that suited us. Super Mac on the other hand looks now like a busted flush. Credit has to go to Derek for his management and coaching appointments and for leaving them to get on with their jobs, which they have done with great credit.

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