NRL Grand Final winner John Asiata has been appointed as Leigh captain following the club’s promotion back to Super League.
The 29-year-old forward linked up with Leigh ahead of last season and was a star performer in the Championship.
Asiata, who won the NRL Premiership with North Queensland Cowboys in 2015, played 31 games for Leigh in 2022, helping them clinch promotion back to Super League.
The former Samoa and Tonga international takes over the captaincy role from Joe Mellor and Adam Sidlow. Mellor remains at the club for this season, whilst Sidlow has departed for Salford.
Asiata said: “First of all I just want to say all glory to God for the opportunity I have to captain this squad in 2023.
“I am very excited for what is ahead. I’m very excited to lead the boys out each and every week. I’m honoured and privileged to be given this role to lead the boys and to be the leader in the team.
“I am thankful to the staff and players for selecting me to be their leader. I won’t let you down.
“To the fans, I’m very excited to see you all down at the Leigh Sports Village. The year starts tomorrow and I can’t wait to rip in with the boys; and put in everything we’ve trained for over pre-season into practice. I can’t wait to get on the field and represent.”
John Asiata: Leigh have reignited my love for rugby league again
Asiata says he will be forever grateful to Leigh for helping him fall in love with rugby league again.
This time 18 months ago Asiata was unsure whether he would play a professional game of rugby league again. He didn’t want to have the Covid vaccine which was mandatory for all NRL players at the time, and he was without a contract.
But promotion-chasing Championship club Leigh offered Asiata and his family a new lease of life in Northern England ahead of last season.
At Christmas, Asiata doubted he would play again. Now, he couldn’t imagine his life without the game he loves; and that’s partly down to the way Leigh have taken him in.
“I sort of wasn’t in the mindset of playing the game again because of what happened with my situation,” Asiata told Love Rugby League back in May.
“A lot happened that year with my neck injury and then obviously the vaccination thing happened as well. I lost the love for the game because it felt like I had no-one on my side but then I got given this opportunity.
“I wanted to come to find that love for the game again and I didn’t want to rush into anything. Leigh was a good place to come with Lammy (Adrian Lam) being the coach and knowing a few players here already. I came with the expectation of just having fun playing footy and just enjoying the game again and that’s what I’m doing at the moment.
“I’ve found my love for the game again”
“I’ve just got to a point where I have found my love for the game again. I think it is all down to just seeing my family enjoy life. There is no pressure, everyone is pretty calm and just having fun.”
Asiata will don the number 13 jersey for the Leopards in 2023.