Leigh have confirmed the appointment of Kieron Purtill as head coach on a permanent basis.
The 41-year-old has been acting as caretaker coach since Neil Jukes resigned in February.
Purtill has guided the Centurions to a recent winning-streak of 11 games, including a Challenge Cup win over Super League side Salford Red Devils.
Centurions owner Derek Beaumont said it was a no-brainer to give Purtill the role permanently.
He said: “It has been a very difficult time at the club with the start we had and it has certainly tested my resolve.
“There is still a long way to go but I feel it is an appropriate time to make it known that I have no intentions of appointing a coach other than confirming Kieron Purtill in the role.
“I haven’t been actively seeking a coach for some time as I have been satisfied with Kieron’s performance and the feedback I have received from the senior players alongside the results on the pitch. I sat down with Kieron after Neil’s departure and told him it was a results driven business and he would be given a fair chance at it.
“I did go to market for a proven, experienced coach but deep inside I knew it was just a name and that Kieron was up to the job. When Paul Rowley left I had no idea it was coming or had been pre planned so when I spoke to the players after I had allowed him to in private I was greeted with a text from Kieron pledging an interest in the job stating ‘I would love nothing more than to coach my home town club.’
“I didn’t know at that time how he knew it was available until I saw the release from Rolls that had gone out in the short space of time of me speaking to the players. It was ironic really as I had always rated Kieron highly as a local lad who had played for the club and worked under some top coaches.
“However, as I told him, I had already told Jukesy and the boys I would give him a chance. Once Kieron became available I was quick to add him to the coaching staff and to be fair Jukesy recommended I give him a go at it when he resigned.
“As with Jukesy, Kieron has earned the title of head coach and when watching the game against Salford and hearing him referred to as caretaker I didn’t feel that was right and thought it was disrespectful to him when I have no intentions of replacing him in the role.
“Kieron has done a terrific job to stabilise the club and get it where it deserves to be. Saturday’s win at Featherstone was an important win and a very tough result to achieve and it is only fair that Kieron takes the boys to Blackpool to face Toronto as the rightful head coach of this club. His loyalty, work ethic and morals are of the highest order and his passion is there for all to see.
“I also would like to place on record the recognition of the hard work, support and passion of Paul Anderson in assisting Kieron.
“As I say the journey is far from over but the club is in a position to be able to make the four and stake a claim to return to Super League. I remain committed to supporting Kieron in doing that and would also like to thank all our loyal fans who have stuck with us and continue to do so.
“I am away on a cruise at the moment recharging my batteries but when I return I will sit down and discuss a longer-term future with Kieron as if we make it back to Super League he will have earned the right to a longer deal and if we don’t I believe he has the ability to achieve that with a full year at it.
“Either way from now he is the head coach of Leigh Centurions and I know the boys will be pleased to hear that their efforts have rewarded Kieron with the job as there is a mutual respect there. I hope everyone enjoys the Summer Bash. It is a great occasion for Rugby League and a great occasion for Kieron to make his mark in his first game as the official head coach of his home town team!”
Purtill started his coaching career with assistant roles at St Helens and Huddersfield Giants, along with appointments with Canada and England Knights, while achieving a level four coaching qualification.
He returned to Leigh in the autumn of 2016 to join Jukes’ coaching staff ahead of the 2017 season. Purtill is over the moon to be appointed head coach of his hometown club.
He said: “I’d like to thank Derek for giving me this opportunity as it is a huge honour to coach Leigh Centurions and one that means a lot to me on a personal basis.
“We have worked hard as a group and I am really pleased for the players and staff as my appointment is recognition of their efforts.
“I’d also like to thank the fans for their tremendous backing which means so much to us all.
“We all are aware that we are nowhere near where we need to be but we will continue to do our utmost to continue the progress we have made with the ambition of taking our club back into Super League.”