Leigh continue rebuilding with three more

James Gordon

Leigh’s busy Friday of announcements has continued with the news that they have signed Jonny Pownall, Andy Thornley and Sam Brooks.

They follow the earlier announcements of Andy Bracek, Iain Thornley, Stefan Marsh, Dec O’Donnell and Luke Adamson after the club finally got the go ahead to recruit players having previously been placed in special measures by the RFL.

Pownall, 27, returns to the club he left at the end of 2016 having spent time with Toronto Wolfpack, who sent him on loan to Barrow and Bradford last season.

He said: “It’s a strange feeling, all a bit surreal.

“Last year I had to leave Toronto to get some game time, but especially with being out on loan I struggled for consistency and that’s why I’m excited to be back at Leigh.

“I played alongside Duffs back in the day and I’ve heard a lot of good things about him as a coach. I’ve only had a few sessions but I’m enjoying training again and there’s a real buzz about the place. I can’t wait for the season to start.”

Prop Brooks, 25, follows coach John Duffy and Martin Ridyard from Featherstone. He came through the ranks at Wigan and has had spells with Halifax, Widnes, Rochdale and Whitehaven.

Duffy said: “Sam was probably Fev’s stand-out forward last season and in the closing weeks of the campaign really came to the fore and upped his game to another level.

“He stood up to be counted and over the last six months, and especially during that testing period, he matured more than ever.

“He put in the hard work and got the rewards and you could really see the change in him.

“Sam grafts hard on building sites all day, where he works as a bricklayer and he’s really grown in stature.

“He knows the challenges we are facing in 2019 and he knows how big a club Leigh Centurions are and he can’t wait to get started.”

Thornley, 29, has been with Swinton and returns to Leigh having played for the club between 2011 and 2014, and joins younger brother Iain at the club.

He said: I’m chuffed to bits to be coming back to Leigh. Duffs rang me to see if I’d be interested and I jumped at the chance.

“When I left Leigh I was going through a bit of a rough patch personally and Duffs took me on board, empowered me as a senior player and I felt like I went from strength to strength playing under him at Swinton. He built up a good squad there on slender resources and going with him to Leigh was a no-brainer.

“As a club Leigh have always set high standards and with my brother signing as well it will be special to be back at the club.”

Hooker O’Donnell, 20, is an Ireland international and scored on his debut against Scotland in the recent European Championships.

He joins from the Wigan academy, who he helped to Grand Final glory last season.

Duffy said: “Dec had an opportunity to go and play in France in their Elite League but he shelved his plans to come to Leigh.

“He’s an excellent young hooker and he couldn’t have a better mentor than playing and training alongside Micky Higham.

“Already they are getting on like a house on fire and Micky’s been taking time out to explain the role of a number nine and what he expects of Dec this season.”

The eight announced so far today join Ridyard and Tom Spencer as new faces in the squad.

Jamie Acton and Mickey Higham, both Centurions in 2018, are also believed to have committed their futures to the club.