The fallout from the Challenge Cup semi-finals. which saw Hull KR and Leigh Leopards defeat Wigan Warriors and St Helens respectively, has been centred around incidents within the game as opposed to the overall quality with key talking points surrounding Leigh’s skipper John Asiata.
Asiata has been one of the standout players in Super League this season regardless of position and the ball-playing thirteen has rightly gained the plaudits for it.
He’s central to the Leigh spine, often acting as the cog between hooker Edwin Ipape and star half-back Lachlan Lam, and that’s provided the Leopards with huge success, something that head coach Adrian Lam knows when he was asked about recent reports linking Asiata with an NRL return.
“Yeah, well I’m not going to put a million pounds on it,” Lam told Leigh Leopards’ Youtube Channel referencing club owner Derek Beaumont’s social media bet at the time of the reports.
“I know John is contracted to us for the 2024 season. John’s our captain. John is happy as anything. I talk with him every day and he loves it where he is at the moment.
“He has no intention of going home. I think this is where he really fits in well. He certainly helped create the DNA of the team here.”
His tough nature on the field though is what came into question at the weekend with four St Helens players copping injuries, two that have unfortunately cut seasons short, with Asiata involved across all four incidents.
Initial reaction from Saints boss Paul Wellens saw him refer to Agnatius Paasi as having had his knee “blown to smithereens”, which was later confirmed to be a damaged ACL, MCL and injured ankle ligaments culminating in an expected nine month lay-off.
Alex Walmsley will also miss the rest of the season with an MCL injury, whilst Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Morgan Knowles are on more short-term timeframes.
Consequent to these injuries and the lack of any disciplinary action taken against the Leigh skipper, there has been a social media witch hunt and a scathing press conference from Paul Wellens in which he referred to Asiata as “out of control” before suggesting Matt Peet should be ‘fearful for his player safety’ in this weekend’s upcoming game.
Adrian Lam has now leapt to the defence of Asiata, testifying as to his character.
“What I will say, I’m not going to answer any other questions about the incident that’s happened this week through social media, but John’s character is second to none as a person.
“I’ve followed John, I’ve watched John and tried to recruit him to the Roosters when he was a teenage boy. I’ve watched him as a player and as a person, as a family man.
“There is no better person in this world than him in all of his morals and the way that he plays his game.
“He has no intention to ever hurt anyone. He’s a great leader. He’s what this club is all about and certainly going to take us forward into the future with his leadership and his captaincy moving forward.”
Lam also confirmed that he was unsure of any planned response from the club in regard to Paul Wellens’ comments, claiming anything like that would be “handed over to the top level to deal with”.