‘Serendipity’ – Derek Beaumont opens up on the buzzword that drove Leigh Leopards to Challenge Cup glory

Ben Olawumi
Derek Beaumont celebrates with Leigh Leopards' players on the pitch at Wembley

Derek Beaumont celebrates with Leigh Leopards' players on the pitch at Wembley - Alamy

Serendipity – The fact of something interesting or pleasant happening by chance.

Otherwise known as the buzzword which led Leigh Leopards to their first major honour in over 40 years, according to owner Derek Beaumont after Saturday’s Challenge Cup final.

One of rugby league’s boldest and most outspoken characters, the club’s coverage in the build-up to their Wembley showdown with Hull KR was heavily focused on Derek’s dream of lifting the most famous domestic Cup in the game.

That dream came true as star man Lachlan Lam fired over a drop goal in golden point extra-time to ice a 17-16 victory, the first-ever Challenge Cup final to require golden point.

And having composed himself after the full-time hooter, the owner opened up on the speech he’d given to the squad in their hotel the night prior, just a stone’s throw from the arch itself.

Derek Beaumont’s buzzword: Serendipity

The man who rebranded Leigh from the Centurions to the Leopards ahead of 2023 said: “We spoke last night, my speech was all about a word called serendipity. I knew that this year was always going to be our year once we got to a point, I just thought it was written to be our destiny.

“I said to the guys at the end of it (the speech), after deep and meaningful words to get them fully invested in it, that serendipity wouldn’t actually win it for us because the guys had to turn up and do the job.

“They did, but in the end that actually did play a big part in it because there were just certain things. I turned up on the warm-up and captain’s run, and there was a feather just behind the line.

“I said ‘I hope we’re attacking that end first because that’s where the first try will be’. It was where the first try was, but we weren’t attacking that line, so when I first got here I thought ‘oh my God’.

“You couldn’t write it could you? This is what I’m saying about serendipity, for Lokie Lam to do that and pick up the Lance Todd coached by his dad, it is a team effort and not just the 17 that took part today.”

Why Derek Beaumont was ready for lift off on the sidelines

When Papua New Guinea superstar Lam kicked the drop goal three minutes and 32 seconds into that first period of golden point, as expected, his team-mates swarmed him and commenced a ‘pile on’.

Interestingly, owner Beaumont was one of the first on the scene, before even boss Adrian Lam had reached the mass of bodies embraced on the Wembley turf together.

The reason for that is actually that the owner had headed down in the lift as the regular 80 minutes were drawing to their conclusion, and when his lift down to the touchline reached its final stop, the Leopards’ chief had a shock – KR had drawn level courtesy of Matt Parcell’s late try.

He continued: “(The drop goal) was a massive relief. I got in the lift thinking we’d won it and got out of the lift watching the video ref! I saw the decision, I didn’t see the try, I just saw the screen and the deliberation. I think it was right in the end.

“I can’t say that (it’s the best moment of my life) because I’ve got three amazing kids that mean the world to me and a fantastic wife, so they’re up there (in the box) but in terms of outside of that, without a shadow of a doubt, it is the best moment by a long way.

“You could give me a winning lottery ticket tomorrow with five million quid on it and I wouldn’t trade it in for this, no way. It’s just unbelievable, incredible. We paid it a lot of respect but we also think we could do more and that’s evident by the team we took to Leeds because we needed to win that game.

“Wigan were really good against us and Saints (in the semi-final) took a helluva lot out of us, and that showed with Wigan’s response, which they needed to do and they deservedly beat us so we had to respond well against Leeds.

“That shows the measure of this team because they did that and still came here and did that, and that performance against Leeds took something out of us.”

Leigh Leopards won’t give up on Grand Final dream in 2023

It was noted prior to the final that most Leythers ahead of 2023 would’ve bitten your hand off just to stay in Super League. The club has thrice before tried and failed to do just that.

Relegation was never a topic discussed internally at the Leigh Sports Village though, ambitions have always been towards the top of the table, and after picking up the first available trophy of the season over the weekend, that drive to succeed hasn’t faltered any.

Beaumont added: “It wasn’t about winning (today) because we’d won by getting here in a sense in terms of a massive achievement so we’ll celebrate that hard tonight and we’ll celebrate it all day tomorrow.

“We had a winning press release done and a losing press release, we’ve got an open-top bus booked that will go ahead, if it didn’t then it was money down the drain but at the end of the day you’ve got to prepare for this and I’m sure Hull KR did too.

“We will then switch it off, we won’t roll long on it because we’ve got Catalans up next and they’re a formidable team, they showed us that over there and they are sat top of the league, four clear.

“We think if work hard enough in that game that we can put ourselves in a position. They (Catalans) then go to Wigan and we could get to the Leopards’ Den for last game of the season, where we play Wigan at home, and maybe that could be a game where the (League Leaders’) shield is dealt with.

“They’ve beat us twice like Salford did, we’ve got them a third time, and I don’t know, but it would be a great dream wouldn’t it?

“This was a dream and we’ve pulled it off, these boys have pulled it off.”

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