Leigh Leopards coach Adrian Lam has praised the leadership of captain John Asiata and the influence he has on the team both on and off the field.
NRL Grand Final winner Asiata is in his second season with Leigh, having arrived ahead of last year to help the club win promotion from the Championship to Super League.
Asiata, who now has more than 50 appearances to his name for the Leopards, has been one of the standout forwards in Super League this season, with his ball-playing ability from the loose forward role being second to none.
“He’s been massive,” Lam said of his skipper Asiata.
“I know last year in the Championship, Edwin Ipape got Player of the Year, but I felt that John deserved that just as much as what Edwin did.
“He’s very influential in the way we play. His leadership as captain sets the tones on and off the field.
“He’s one of the smartest rugby league players in the world I think at the moment.
“He’s certainly smart in the sense that if a defensive style is going a particular way, then we can change up to suit and he certainly guides that.”
Leigh Leopards boss provides injury update ahead of Challenge Cup semi-final
The Leopards are flying high in Super League at the moment, with Lam’s side sitting in second. Their attention this week turns to the Challenge Cup, where they face Super League champions St Helens in the semi-finals in Warrington on Saturday.
Lam said they expect to welcome back Papua New Guinea star Edwin Ipape for the semi-final, and expects former Samoa international Ricky Leutele to play despite coming off in their win at Salford on Sunday.
“Everyone is okay,” Lam said when asked about injuries.
“We had a couple of late changes yesterday in the game which disrupted the team a fair bit – Edwin Ipape pulling out through illness and his replacement (Aaron Smith) pulling out in the last second – both ill, but we took Ricky Leutele off which was just precautionary but I think everyone will be available for the semi-final and in good health and shape.”
‘Leigh has been a sleeping giant for a long time’ – Adrian Lam
Lam says there is a feel-good factor surrounding the Greater Manchester town following the impressive rise of the Leopards.
He added: “Leigh has been a sleeping giant for a long time and hasn’t had much to cheer about to be fair.
“I think we had over 2,000 fans travel to Salford over the weekend which just shows you that it’s just about building momentum.
“Just the thought of them having the right to talk about that they may be at Wembley has been nice to see and the thought about them being able to talk about being second in the league is nice to see.
“They are very happy at the moment, the players are like heroes to them, it has given the town something to be proud of, to support and to wake up every morning and talk about so there’s a good buzz around town at the moment.”