Leigh Leopards head coach Adrian Lam has once again stressed how proud he is of the club and his side as they try and secure a home tie in the play-offs, describing the year they’ve had as ‘incredible’.
Lam guided the Leythers back to the top flight at the first time of asking last term, winning the Championship at a canter and beating Batley Bulldogs in the play-off final. They also beat Featherstone Rovers to lift the 1895 Cup for the first time in 2022.
Skip forward just shy of 12 months from that final against Batley, and having been successfully re-branded as ‘Leopards’, Leigh have already got their hands on some prestigious silverware having won the Challenge Cup for the first time in 52 years last month.
A golden point extra time victory over Wakefield Trinity last Friday night officially secured their spot in the play-offs, the first time the club will ever compete in them having been relegated at the first attempt in all three of their previous Super League campaigns.
If Lam’s side can pull off a win against the odds against his former employers Wigan Warriors tonight, not only will they deny their neighbours a League Leaders’ Shield triumph, the Leopards would also secure home advantage in the play-offs against Hull KR.
Adrian Lam reflects on ‘incredible’ 2023 with sights set on the play-offs
Papua New Guinea native Lam, son Lachlan and the ‘band of brothers’ put together at the Leigh Sports Village know they’re up against it this evening, but the boss reflects fondly on 2023 no matter what happens from here on in.
He told Love Rugby League: “From our club’s point of view, it’s been incredible. Only just over a year and a half ago, we had seven players here building for the Championship.
“We got that right, winning everything in the Championship, and then we’ve come up here and it’s been an incredible season for us as a group.
“We’ve got the smallest squad in Super League, we’ve won the Challenge Cup, and we’re going to retain 90% of our players also bringing in five plus new players to help build the squad.
“We feel that, on this journey, we’re growing and improving. There’s still a lot more development to go, and a lot more growth, but we’re certainly being aggressive in signing players who can take us to the next level.
Leigh Leopards have had ‘a dream come true’ this year, says boss Lam
The 53-year-old sits at the helm of a club who were ridiculed by most for their re-brand, but a side who have silenced the critics with their on-field performances.
He’s already spoken about taking on board and reinvigorating the careers of many players deemed ‘lost causes’ by other clubs. Josh Charnley was disregarded by Warrington Wolves, and openly admitted he considered whether he had a future in the game at all, but under Lam has been one of the top try scorers in Super League throughout the year.
Zak Hardaker is another to have had a new lease of life breathed into him by a move to Leigh, though he will play no part tonight against former employers Wigan having broken his hand. He could miss the play-off campaign too.
Despite injuries beginning to take their toll, the Leopards’ boss expressed his pride in what they’ve built at a club some – even after the success this year – label a ‘bus stop in Wigan’.
Lam added: “To be sitting in the top four with a game to go is probably a dream come true for everyone in the sense of there being a lot of talk at the start of the season about us being in the relegation zone come this time of year.
“We’re not, and we’re all proud of that. We’ve worked really hard to be here and we’ve got what we’ve deserved. It’s not over for us yet, we do have a couple of niggling injuries creeping in at this point in the season which isn’t good, but like everything else we’ve just got on with what we’ve had to do.
“Players have come in and they’ll do a job, then it’s just on a week-to-week basis. We’re very proud of who we are, what we’ve done, and the DNA that we’ve built on and off the field.
“As a stadium here under Derek Beaumont’s guidance, we’ve certainly created an event day here for fans. The growth and how much this club has developed is probably up there with the best in Super League in the last 12 months. A real successful year for us so far, but there’s still a long way to go.”