Exclusive: Leigh Leopards owner Derek Beaumont vows to strengthen squad for 2024, reveals all on failed academy application

Ben Olawumi
Derek Beaumont

Leigh Leopards owner Derek Beaumont - Alamy

Derek Beaumont has promised Leigh Leopards supporters that they will operate with a bigger pack next year to alleviate the problems they’re facing now, and has opened up on their failed academy licence application.

The Leopards head to Craven Park tonight, taking on Hull KR in what will be their first-ever Super League play-off game, looking to book a spot in next weekend’s semi-finals.

Ahead of it, Beaumont himself admitted how concerning their growing injury list is given they’ve operated with one of the smallest packs in the competition in 2023.

In an exclusive interview with Love Rugby League, he now explains why that’s been the case and his recruitment plans moving forward to strengthen Adrian Lam’s side, as well as detailing why the club will still not have an academy in place until at least 2025.

Owner Derek Beaumont vows Leigh will have better depth in 2024 as injuries start to take their toll ahead of play-offs

Heading into tonight’s ‘Eliminator’ tie, Leigh are without their two starting centres in Zak Hardaker and Ricky Leutele. Captain John Asiata has been named in their initial 21-man squad, but is also expected to play no part as he hasn’t for the last three weeks having injured his hamstring.

Additionally, Frankie Halton has made just three appearances since joining his hometown club from KR back in May, injured on debut and then again more recently, and Lam could also have been without Tom Amone courtesy of a ban, though that’s been overturned so the prop is free to play tonight.

When you’ve only got a small pack, any injuries take their toll, as detailed by owner Beaumont. Speaking at Monday’s Dream Team launch event, he told Love Rugby League: “There’s always going to be reviews by a medical team.

“They’re going to look at whether they could have done anything differently, whether we put too much load in on a player, that kind of thing is reviewed week-on-week.

We rested John against St Helens and then kept the boys off their feet going into the Wakefield game. That ended up probably a bit more intense than we thought it was going to be, and in the next to last play during the team run ahead of Wakefield pulls his hamstring.

“That medical element will be reviewed, but in terms of depth of squad, obviously we need to get to an academy. We can apply again next year and then hopefully get one in place for 2025. There’s also the difficulty that we face because it’s a salary cap sport.

To be successful like we’ve been, you’ve got to have the better players, so you have got to front-load your money into getting those big players and manage that situation. If that means you lose a few fillers on £25-£35k because you’ve got more loaded into the £150-£180k end of it, then that’s a decision made.

“We will have a thicker squad next year, we hope there’s going to be some changes to the rules. There has been some, in terms of age. We will have a reserves next year as well, so that will thicken us up and give us another area where we can play rugby.”

Leigh Leopards chief opens up on rejected academy application

Ahead of their Super League return, following promotion and a vastly mocked re-brand, Leigh tried and failed for an academy licence. Had they seen the application approved, the club would have had a proper academy setup in place for the start of 2024, but now they will have to wait until at least 2025 to start operating one.

Remaining proud of the application they initially put in, Beaumont has re-iterated their intentions to apply again in a few weeks’ time, believing the reason their previous attempt failed wasn’t anything to do with what they could have done better.

He told Love Rugby League: “I thought we put in a fantastic application, it was robust, diverse and inclusive. It was backed up with legacy software, which we’ve now progressed with anyway. We’ve delivered on a lot of the things that we said we would do.

“We’ve now got an U15s and U16s development team that Kieron Purtill’s been working with. I appointed him as Head of Youth as well as the women’s coach, so we’ve shown our intentions weren’t just a piece of paper. There’s more that can follow off the back of it too.

“The main reason that we didn’t get one was that there was already a maximum number of licences out there, and they didn’t feel that it was right to remove one from someone for what was being put forward by us, I guess.

“Now, that’s viewed differently because of what we’ve done, where we are and where we’ve put ourselves in Super League. I think they know we’re here to stay now, and an academy fits well with us.”

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