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Adrian Lam reveals how Oliver Gildart deal was done so quickly hinting he may feature against Leeds Rhinos

This week has seen plenty of big transfer moves in Super League just ahead of the Friday registration deadline with today’s highlight being Blake Austin swapping Leeds Rhinos for Castleford Tigers and last week seeing Tyler Dupree linking up with Wigan Warriors, but Tuesday’s big news saw former Wigan centre Oliver Gildart sign for Leigh Leopards.

The move sees Gildart return from the NRL and link up with his former Wigan boss Adrian Lam, as well as make a move closer to home, but it initially roused plenty of questions with Leigh set to face Hull KR in a week’s time in the Challenge Cup Final and Gildart having already signed for Rovers for 2024 and beyond.

It was quickly clarified that he wouldn’t feature in that match but on Tuesday Willie peters told the press that he’d had no prior knowledge and that “there was no opportunity to sign Oli”.

That’s because Leigh moved incredibly quick to replace injured centre Ricky Leutele as they aim for a huge crack at the playoffs on their first season back in Super League.

Adrian Lam told the Leopards Youtube channel: “I think just the way that it started obviously with Ricky Leutele having that injury from a couple of weeks ago and since having to go and have his spinal operated on. That certainly puts him out for the year and puts us under a little bit of pressure there.

“So us having a small squad, we just put the feelers out there for a centre that could play that left-hand side. So obviously with my relationships with Oliver in the past, at Wigan there, it was just a quick call and connection there.

“Once we made that call he was eager to go. Very fortunate for us, he’s a world-class centre and I think he’ll do a great job here. He’s very close as well with a few of the players in the team and Josh Charney who he’s played with and won Grand Finals with as well. So a real good fit for us, especially this late on in the season.”

Lam did explain that Gildart would have waited it out in Australia but given the opportunity and the chance to move closer to home in an environment with people he knew then the deal was quickly sorted.

“He was prepared to wait out the year there and do his part for the Dolphins. Obviously he hasn’t played any games for the Dolphins this year in 2023 so he’s been frustrated with that.

“He hasn’t moved as well so his partner stayed back there and is packing up but that was all part of the communications and all of a sudden it worked for us. So I’m very grateful for it.

“I know he is heading elsewhere next year so short term contract but his family where he’ll live is only 10 minutes down the road so it’s a natural fit for him and for us.”

The Leopards travel to Headingley on Sunday and with Hull KR’s squad being confirmed as having thirteen changes to it and Willie Peters promising six debuts, Lam was asked on how he will approach the game and if Gildart could feature.

“He’ll be added to the squad. We’ve just got to make sure that he gets through this week in regards to, you know, it’s a long flight with legs and heavy legs and things like that. But if we can find a place for him, that’s what he’s been brought here for, to play.

“So, obviously these two weeks aren’t ideal for him with the week leading into the Challenge Cup, you can’t play next week in the final of the Challenge Cup, so he’ll certainly be there or thereabouts the week after.

“We can’t afford to not take our eyes off that ladder on the Super League,” Lam responded when asked about his line-up this weekend, with the Leopards currently sitting third, two points ahead of St Helens who have a game in hand.

“So you know, the preparation has been set all year, and the players know this, that we’ve got to pick our strongest team moving forward for this week. Maybe one or two players may be rested that have niggles and that’s a decision that we’ll make on captain’s run.

“It’s business as usual for us. It’s important that in my philosophy, in my opinion, that it’s another opportunity for us to play together as a group to get it right for the big game. So rather than the other option, we’ll stick with our philosophy and making sure that we play well this weekend.”

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