John Asiata: Challenge Cup victory up there with 2015 NRL Premiership as Lachlan Lam winner compared to Johnathan Thurston

Josh McAllister
John Asiata lifts the Challenge Cup trophy.

Leigh Leopards captain John Asiata lifts the trophy after winning the Challenge Cup final at Wembley. Photo by PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo.

Leigh Leopards skipper John Asiata says the 2023 Challenge Cup victory is up there with the 2015 NRL Premiership win with North Queensland Cowboys.

Asiata, 30, led the Leopards out in front of a crowd of 58,213 inside Wembley Stadium less than two years after joining the club in the Championship.

The loose forward made the switch to England ahead of the 2022 campaign and won promotion under Adrian Lam in his debut season, having made 138 appearances in the NRL.

His last season was spent with Brisbane Broncos in 2021, but his finest moment in Australia came in 2015 as the Cowboys defeated what would be his future club 17-16 at the ANZ Stadium.

Legend Johnathan Thurston kicked the winning drop-goal in extra time after Kyle Feldt’s try on the hooter forced the game into golden point.

Asiata compared that moment to Lachlan Lam’s winning one-pointer against Hull KR to claim the prestigious Challenge Cup title, Leigh’s first since 1971.

“It’s up there with the 2015 one,” Asiata said on the triumph in the capital.

“It was a big flashback when Lachlan actually kicked the ball because I remember when Johnathan Thurston kicked it [against Brisbane Broncos], the way he dropped the ball was on an angle and the way it flew over the posts was just exactly the same to how Lachlan did it.”

John Asiata on ‘amazing feeling’ and pre-match nerves

Having played the game professionally for 10 years, making his debut in 2014, Asiata says he still had some nerves ahead of the Challenge Cup kick-off against Willie Peters’ side.

The Robins claimed their place at Wembley thanks to a golden point win over Wigan in the semi-finals, but it was Lam’s effort that sealed the victory in front of the Leigh supporters.

 

“We speak a lot in our camp about being calm and trusting the process, but to be honest I was still a bit nervous,” Asiata admitted.

“It hit me, especially when we walked out. But obviously you then get involved in the game and you start to settle into it and it all starts to calm down.

“It’s just an amazing feeling and a lot of emotion has gone out there. It’s up there with a lot of them.”

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