Adrian Lam provides Leigh Leopards recruitment and retention update, including loan options

Drew Darbyshire
Adrian Lam Leigh Leopards Alamy

Leigh Leopards head coach Adrian Lam

Leigh Leopards coach Adrian Lam has provided a recruitment and retention update following the club’s major signing of NRL fullback David Armstrong.

Last week, the Leopards confirmed the signing of fullback Armstrong on a three-year deal from NRL side Newcastle Knights from 2025: their first announced signing for next season.

A big turnover of players is expected at Leigh over the off-season, with veteran winger Tom Briscoe (Hull) and Fijian prop Ben Nakubuwai (Featherstone) having already left midway through this year, with winger Darnell McIntosh (Hull) and NRL prop Aaron Pene (Melbourne) arriving at the club.

Meanwhile, Zak Hardaker, Oli Holmes and Ed Chamberlain are reportedly set to join John Asiata at Hull FC in 2025, with only the latter’s signing having been officially confirmed by the clubs.

And it has been confirmed that key duo Tom Amone (Canterbury Bulldogs) and Kai O’Donnell (North Queensland Cowboys) will be returning to the NRL at the end of the season.

Speaking in his weekly press conference, Lam said he was excited by the acquisition of Aussie speedster Armstrong, whilst hinting that there will be a ‘few’ more signings announced by the Leopards in the coming months.

“We are in a position at the moment in which we’ve identified where a few weaknesses may be in our current squad and we want to change the way that looks,” Lam said.

“There will probably be a few more signings to be announced by the end of the year that we can share with the fans at some stage and some of our players will be leaving at the end (of the season), that has been quite obvious.

“Tommy Briscoe has gone halfway through the season, so we’ve got to keep evolving and make sure we’re on top of our retention and recruitment and I think it’s an area that’s quite exciting to do.

“I think we had 13 new players come here this year, I think there was 12 last year, so we’re forever turning it over to get the right team.

“And with the philosophy of our academy side, eventually I would like this team to have 90 per cent of this team being Leigh lads born and bred and having played their junior rugby here, so that’s something to look forward to. That’s a long-term goal that we can see within five to 10 years.”

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When asked about how many signings the club are looking to bring in, Lam replied: “That’s a hard one to answer. That’s on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis, it’s something that we’ll work on and I meet with Chris Chester and Derek (Beaumont) and Neil (Jukes) just about every day and every week so it’s a difficult one to answer at the moment but the owner Derek is very positive about spending the full cap and making sure we bring the players in that we need to and we let go of ones that we need to. I think we’re on a very aggressive path at the moment with that, we want the team to look a particular way in the next two to three years and we’ve started that with a really good signing of David Armstrong, so I’m pretty excited about what’s ahead for that.”

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Leigh Leopards coach Adrian Lam to consider sending more fringe players out on loan

The Leopards currently have a number of players out on loan. Keanan Brand and Louis Brogan are currently at Widnes, Nathan Wilde is at Doncaster and Jack Darbyshire is at Rochdale, and with Leigh starting to get players from injury, Lam admits he may look at sending one or two more out on loan to get regular minutes.

“I’m a big supporter of players having to play minutes once they come back from injury,” Lam said.

“If I want to use Keanan Brand in the next month, I’d prefer it that he’d got 320 minutes underneath his belt to come into our system as opposed to nothing at all so if those players are there and are playing and get some form up, then we’ll leave them there and, if we need them back, then we’ll call them back to play.

“There’ll probably be a few more players going out on the back of that because we’re getting a few more players back, so those players will get the opportunity to play well every week and obviously put themselves in the picture to be selected in the weeks to come.

“I think we’ve got players like (Lewis) Baxter that will need to go out, Tom Nisbet that will need to go out, Keanan Brand as we mentioned, we’ve got (Jack) Darbyshire, we’ve got (Nathan) Wilde: everyone who is outside of that 19 or 20 at the moment we could potentially look at moving on loan, we’ve got Louis Brogan at Widnes with Keanan Brand so we’re doing everything we possibly can.

“It’s great for the players, I don’t want them sitting around not playing and waiting for an opportunity. They need to get out, play some rugby and find some form so it suits everyone.”

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