The Leigh story continues.
This year has been an absolute whirlwind for the newly promoted, and newly named, Leopards. Their Challenge Cup Final win at Wembley is already the stuff of Leigh legend, but now they set their sights on Old Trafford as they enter the play-offs. If that wasn’t enough, they have also seen five players picked in the Super League Dream Team.
We sat down with the man behind the club’s success this season, Adrian Lam, to discuss all things play-offs.
The Leopards will travel up to Craven Park on Friday night to face the Robins in the first of this season’s play-off matches. The two sides have already faced each other three times in Super League as well as that historic clash at Wembley, and Lam highlighted the challenge that lies ahead of his team: “it’ll be the fifth time I think this year so both teams know each other inside out,” said Lam. “It’s just a matter of going there and getting our best performance down and our best 80 minutes that we’ve done since the Challenge Cup. We understand the challenge ahead of us and it’s going to be tough but it’s all in for us.”
Lam also confirmed one of the Leopards key men, Zak Hardaker, would not feature against Hull KR though with surgery set the rule him out of the remainder of the season.
The Leopards already have one piece of silverware in the cabinet this season after lifting the Challenge Cup Final back in August, and they now find themselves just three wins away from a historic double; however Adrian Lam was quick to explain that this was not in their minds and they were taking it game by game in the play-offs. “I think it’s more about a week-to-week proposition for us,” he said. “I know we’re capable of doing it, but I think we’re going to put first things first and that’s heading up to a really tough away game against Hull KR in front of a massive crowd that’s going to be very vocal and a very physical game again. So let’s just get through that and then we’ll see what’s next.”
This season has seen plenty of firsts for the Leopards, and this weekend saw another as Josh Charnley, Tom Amone, Lachlan Lam, John Asiata and Edwin Ipape were all named in the prestigious Super League Dream Team. Prior to this, the club had previously never had one player named in the squad, let alone five.
On those five Leopards that made the squad, Lam said: “It’s massive and quite emotional for us too because the players that we’ve got that are in there are all talented players and have definitely earned their positions. When you have a look at each and every one of them, they’ve had such an incredible season and our club is very proud of them.”
He added: “I think it’s the first one, or the first players ever to be included in a Dream Team in the Super League era from the Leigh club. The families are proud of them as well and I as coach am proud of them and I think that puts us in a good position moving forward.”
On a more personal note, he expressed his emotions on seeing his son Lachlan being named in the team: “obviously that’s the other side of the emotional side that pulls the heartstrings. I was fortunate enough to make three Dream Teams when I was playing and just to see my son coming through the Leopards here in the Super League and to earn his own stripe there is just another magic moment of the season. I’m very proud of him, he’s developed a lot since coming over and his leadership has gone to another level so I’m really proud of him and long may he continue.”
However, it was also important to reflect on the last game of the regular season. Speaking on his side’s defeat to Wigan, Lam said: “Yeah, very tough game but everyone’s got through okay. Tough in the sense of in all areas such as where we ended up finishing on the ladder without a result and just an adjustment to the rest of the ladder.”
He added: “I was very proud of the effort and energy as I always am. They were a really resilient, tough team.”
The game was marred in controversy, with Oliver Gildart having a try chalked off. Lam gave his thoughts on this, saying: “I looked at that and 100% I think any rugby league fan, supporter, media, administrator, anyone involved in the game knows that that was a try except for the two people that counted the most.”
However, he highlighted that his side will move on from it ahead of the play-offs. “You can’t change that now, we’ve just got to get on with it,” he said. “You can’t do anything about it, we’ll sort things through the official way on things like that and we’ve just got to get on with it because the semi-finals are here.
“We’ve worked really hard to hold a place in this in the semi-final and the top six, we’ve earned the right to do that and it’s been an incredible journey this year and success and memories, but we’re not finished.”