Exclusive: Ben McNamara explains Leigh Leopards move, his new role and reuniting with the Lams

Drew Darbyshire
Ben McNamara Leigh Leopards Alamy

Ben McNamara (right) has joined Leigh Leopards on a two-year deal (Alamy)

Ben McNamara says his move to Leigh Leopards has given him ‘a lot of energy’ after linking up with the Lams again – on the other side of the world.

The 22-year-old is one of eight new signings for the Challenge Cup winners this off-season, making the move over the Pennines from fellow Super League club Hull FC.

McNamara, who made 33 appearances during his four seasons with Hull‘s first team, says he is already reaping the rewards of his move to the Leopards.

“I’m loving it, I think it’s given me a lot of energy to be honest,” McNamara told Love Rugby League at Leigh’s media day.

“I think it’s probably something I needed at this point in my career and I’m really reaping the benefits of it, so it’s great.”

McNamara has reunited with head coach Adrian Lam and Dream Team member Lachlan Lam at Leigh, having formed a good relationship with the family almost a decade ago when his dad Steve became Sydney Roosters‘ assistant coach.

“I’m really good friends with Bayley who is Lokie’s younger brother, Adrian’s younger son,” McNamara added.

“We went to school together and we played rugby together for Clovelly (Crocodiles) and we played for junior Roosters together, so we were always at the beach together when we lived there.

“I knew Adrian well, he was coaching our team and obviously with our relationship with Bayley he helped us out a lot and it is crazy to be on the other side of the world reconnecting with them eight years down the line.

“I had a relationship there with Lokie and Adrian, and it helped me hit the ground running when I came into the place. As much as I like the challenge of coming somewhere new and meeting new players and staff, it is also nice to have the familiarity of a few who you know are good people and you know they know their stuff, so it’s been great.”

Ben says father Steve, who is currently the longest-serving head coach in Super League with Catalans Dragons, was really supportive of his off-season switch to the Leopards.

“I speak to my dad about everything and usually it’s about rugby league!” Ben laughed.

“He was really supportive of it, I think he knew that I’d be under a great coach in Adrian and a great place to succeed.

“One thing I haven’t really spoken about is just how exciting it is to be in the team and I really think like we have a chance of winning something, that’s what you play the game for and I really hope we can go somewhere and do something this year.”

Ben McNamara ‘excited’ by new utility role with Leigh Leopards

Ben McNamara Hull FC Alamy Ben McNamara in action for Hull FC in 2023 (Alamy)

The Hull native is set for a utility role with Lam’s side in 2024, having trained in the half-back and hooker roles during pre-season.

McNamara is likely to fill the void left by Joe Mellor, who was primarily used from the bench as an extra playmaking option last season, before heading to Salford Red Devils just before Christmas.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” McNamara said of his new role. “I can feel myself improving each session which is quite a satisfying feeling because it is a bit new to me but under Adrian’s coaching, he’s given me all the tips I need.

“I think as a half-back there’s things you need in your game that other hookers, who have been hookers their whole career, don’t really have. I think it’s really exciting for me if I can take those skills and add all the bits of being a hooker and experiencing that – getting a year of that under my belt – I think I can make a really good fist of it.”

McNamara will form part of a mouth-watering spine for the Leopards this year, which features Gareth O’Brien, Lam, Edwin Ipape, John Asiata and headline signing Matt Moylan.

“It’s unbelievable when you say it like that,” McNamara continued. “It’s very talented and the luxury is that you can just give them the ball and they’ll make something happen.

“If you’re not too sure yourself there’s always someone else who can come up with a big play and I think that’s key to a team, having big players make big plays like they do, it’s really awesome and I’ve been enjoying working with them so far.”

McNamara sets his main personal goal for 2024

Despite only being 22, McNamara has been around the Super League environment for several years now – and he is determined to make 2024 his breakthrough campaign.

“I think being in the 17 every week is probably the aim,” he said.

“I don’t usually set too many long-term goals but if I’m in and around the 17 every week, then good things usually happen from that and it means you’re performing if you stay in the team, so I’d say that’s probably my main goal.

“I’ve had a few problems with injuries over the last couple of years where I feel I could’ve kicked on a bit more than I have and it’s kind of hampered me so that’ll go a long way if I can stay injury free and keep my body right and stay on the field – I think that’ll go a long way to having a good season.”

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