How Leigh-Wigan is the new Broncos-Cowboys for Leopards star

Drew Darbyshire
John Asiata Leigh Leopards SWpix

Leigh captain John Asiata has been there and done it at the highest level, but there is something new he will experience on Thursday night.

The 29-year-old has won an NRL Premiership, he’s played on the international stage for both Tonga and Samoa, and he’s made almost 150 appearances in the NRL.

And on Thursday, Asiata will lead his Leopards in his first derby clash against rivals Wigan in front of a packed out Leigh Sports Village.

“I’m pretty excited for it,” Asiata said. “Wigan have been a good team for a very long time.

“I think the rivalry can be just as good as what it was for the Brisbane Broncos and Cowboys back in 2015.

“I think with the squad we have, we’re looking to challenge other teams and this is another test for us to make sure we can stick with them.”

John Asiata enjoying life in Super League

The former Tonga and Samoa international played a key role in helping Leigh gain promotion to Super League last season.

And he is loving life in the top flight, with the Leopards having won three of their first six games of the season.

“It’s been good,” he said. “Compared to Championship, the skill level and the speed of the game is a lot quicker and the boys are a lot sharper.

“We had a really quality side last year and played some good footy but this year has been a challenge.

“We’ve got a lot of news faces and it is going to take time to rebuild that but I think we’ve kept the foundations from last year and we just need to make sure the new players jump onboard with that.

“I think the new boys that have come in have really grown. They’ve really stepped up, a lot of them are experienced players and they are able to show their leadership to some of the younger guys who were here last year.

“We don’t really look at them as new anymore because of their experience and level of quality, so it has been a lot easier for us to gel and show each other what our strengths are.”

ASIATA: Leigh have reignited my love for rugby league again

The start of a new long-term Super League rivalry

Wigan captain Liam Farrell likes the fact neighbours Leigh are back in Super League, with it bringing back another derby match for the Warriors.

“It just adds another rivalry in there,” Farrell said of Thursday’s match, billed as Battle of the Borough.

“You look for certain fixtures during the year, Saints being one, but this is up there just as much.

“If you look at Leigh as a team, you wouldn’t think they are a team that has just been promoted this year. They are playing like a play-off team at the moment.

“Over the last four or five years they’ve been in pre-season (against Leigh), but even then they’ve been fierce, intense and aggressive.

“We expect just as much as this week but we are playing against a quality team with a lot of international players so we’re going to have to be on the top of our game to get the win.”

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