Leigh Leopards boss delivers recruitment, retention update with transfer merry-go-round in full swing

Ben Olawumi
David Armstrong, Ben Nakubuwai

David Armstrong (left) & Ben Nakubuwai (right)

Leigh boss Adrian Lam says their interest in Newcastle Knights full-back David Armstrong hasn’t waned, but a move from Down Under isn’t on the cards at the minute. Similarly, he says forward Ben Nakubuwai won’t be making a move to Castleford Tigers – at least not yet – with the Leopards’ squad still thin on the ground.

Lam and the Leythers’ interest in Armstrong is something that’s been very well documented since pre-season, with the Australian yet to make his NRL debut.

In February, Armstrong – who turned 23 earlier this month – scored two tries in a pre-season ‘trial’ game against Cronulla Sharks at senior level for the Knights, but has since returned to playing in the New South Wales Cup, scoring five tries in four appearances at second-grade level Down Under so far this term.

With Gareth O’Brien now set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a calf strain, expected to keep him out for circa six weeks, Leigh’s need for a full-back has never been greater, at least not this season.

Leigh recruitment update with transfer merry-go-round in full swing as Leopards continue pursuit of David Armstrong

Matt Moylan – who has previously played full-back for world champions Australia on the international front – slotted into the #1 role on Saturday as the Leopards relinquished their hold on the Challenge Cup with defeat at Hull KR.

And while Lam didn’t confirm whether the long-term plan is for Moylan to stay there while O’Brien is out injured, he confirmed that their pursuit of Armstrong had slowed somewhat.

The Leopards chief said: “Full-back is a position that we’ve been looking at for a little while, and Davey Armstrong has been of interest to me, Chezzy (Chris Chester, head of rugby) and the group, without a doubt.

“He’s someone that we would see fitting in this environment really, really well, and the style of play that we play here would suit him.

“He is a player that we are interested in, it’s not working out at the moment, but that’s what happens. We’re always open to looking at anyone coming off-contract if they’re going to make us better, whether it’s during the season or the off-season.

“We’ve just got to keep looking at – and making sure – that we take care of our own backyard first, and getting this place right. If things change and develop from that, we’ll make note of that and let everybody now.

“We are looking to build the squad in any capacity at any point in the season.”

Adrian Lam delivers verdict on Ben Nakubuwai’s potential exit with Castleford Tigers interested: ‘At this point, that’s not going to happen’

If Leigh were to snap up Armstrong, with their quota spots already full, it would require one of the overseas players they currently have at their disposal to depart the club.

Earlier this week, LoveRugbyLeague exclusively broke the news that Castleford were interested in signing Fiji international Nakubuwai.

The Tigers themselves have lost an overseas powerhouse for at least the next few weeks, with Papua New Guinea ace Sylvester Namo hit with a long-term ban for his part in the incident which saw Wigan Warriors’ Willie Isa suffer a fracture dislocation of his ankle in last weekend’s cup tie at the Jungle.

Nakubuwai – who joined Leigh in 2022 – has featured in all eight of the Leopards’ games to date this year, with all of his appearances coming from the interchange bench.

And Lam explained that, at least in the short term, he’s going to need the 28-year-old to stick around, as he detailed: “Ben’s been playing for us every single week, and with the numbers that we’ve had short, we’ve had to hold onto Ben and make sure that he’s been available for us.

“I think Ben probably needs to play some more minutes at some stage, so whether that means starting him here for us or putting him out on loan, that’s a decision that we’ll make as a club in the next couple of weeks when our other players come back.

“At this point, that’s not going to happen. I’m in constant communication with all players in regards to needing more time or what the next step is. At this moment in time, we need all the bodies we can get here to help us out.

“It’s been a really difficult period, and Ben’s done a decent job coming off the bench to make sure that we have those big bodies.”