Adrian Lam ‘really proud’ to lead silverware hunt for ‘sleeping giant’ Leigh Leopards

Ben Olawumi
Leigh boss Adrian Lam after 1895 cup win - Alamy

Adrian Lam is on the hunt for another piece of silverware with the Leopards

Leigh Leopards boss Adrian Lam has expressed his pride in being the man to lead the club forward as they prepare for a first Challenge Cup semi-final since 1987.

The Leopards, who re-branded from Centurions ahead of their return to the top table this term, have taken Super League by storm, currently second on the ladder.

A first-ever Super League victory away against Salford Red Devils yesterday made it 12 wins from 13, the only defeat in that time an agonising one in the South of France against league leaders Catalans Dragons.

Last season, along with promotion, Lam guided his side to an 1895 Cup triumph at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. That was the pre-cursor to the Challenge Cup final, and now, with St Helens to come in the last-four this weekend, Leigh have their sights set on a spot in the main event back at Wembley.

Adrian Lam: Sleeping giant Leigh awakening again

Speaking in the build-up to that victory over Salford, it was clear that many of the questions on everybody’s lips were about the Challenge Cup and the prospect of another trip to the capital.

And though the Papua New Guinean wanted to keep focus on getting the job done against the Red Devils, he opened up on what the success so far this season has meant to him and his players.

Lam said: “It’s great for the town. It’s a sleeping giant here, they’ve not had much to cheer about over the last two decades, so it’s something that is really important to the fans, sponsors and everyone involved with the club at the moment.

“We are moving forward in the right direction. All we can do is make sure we keep working hard on the 80 minutes come the weekend, and it seems to take care of itself after that.

“We’ve just got to stay focused with the process and tick off each week as we go along.”

Lam: “You’ve got to keep pinching yourselves”

The 52-year-old took charge at the Leigh Sports Village ahead of 2022 following a dismal year in Super League for the then-Centurions which had seen just two victories.

Since, on and off the pitch, he has headed up a project which has seen huge change, most for the better. Despite the vast experience Lam has in the game, having so much success so soon at Leigh is something he isn’t taking for granting.

“I’m really proud of it as a coach. It’s one of those things that you’ve got to keep pinching yourselves, but we’ll keep working hard here.

“We’re not finished yet, it’s only the beginning for us really, with Chris Chester doing his role as director of rugby and the recruitment and retention side, we’re all working hard towards that.

“We are bringing in players next year to make us bigger and better than what we are now, that’s really important that we have a five-year plan of what’s ahead of us, so all of the live stuff is nice, like sitting second on the ladder and a semi-final against St Helens.

“That’s all important and great for us, but we have got a big picture ahead of us as well. We aren’t zooming in on any particular thing, it’s a big picture here, supported by Derek [Beaumont] obviously, who has been great for us, and Neil Jukes. As a club, we feel like we are moving forward in the right direction.”

The times they are a-changin’

Before this season, the Leythers had thrice been in Super League without any success, being relegated back down to the Championship on each occasion.

Referenced above, the 2021 campaign saw just two wins and four points. The first of those victories didn’t come until Round 20. Remarkably, Leigh’s first-ever Super League campaign in 2005 saw them pick up just one point more having played another six games.

And sandwiched between those two seasons was 2017, which – perhaps unluckily – ended in a Million Pound Game defeat to none other than Catalans. That year, the Centurions didn’t finish bottom of the league, but due to the format, were still able to be relegated.

Despite those previous unsuccessful short stints, relegation wasn’t ever mentioned in the Leopards camp for 2023. Lam said: “There was no sort of goals with position on the ladder or even talking about relegation. We made a decision early that we didn’t want to be a club talking about fighting for our lives at the bottom of the table.

“We set goals on day-to-day standards, expectations and accountability from each other. If we’ve got that and each player being happy here, playing for each other and the accountability side, we knew that the consistency would come.

“That’s been the key for us this year, the players don’t want to let each other down and by performing to the best of their abilities, that was going to put us in a good place on the ladder. The results would take care of themselves. I still think we’ve got one or two levels to go which is promising and exciting.”

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