Leigh Leopards boss explains innovative reason for John Asiata appearing in coaches’ box

Ben Olawumi
John Asiata, Adrian Lam

Leigh Leopards captain John Asiata (circle) & head coach Adrian Lam (main image)

Leigh Leopards captain John Asiata is nearing a return, and by the time he gets back out on the field, he’ll have a better idea of how head coach Adrian Lam’s brain works during a game.

That’s because while the Leopards skipper has been out injured, boss Lam has enlisted him to sit alongside the coaching staff during games, providing – and listening to – insights at different stages of the game.

While Asiata‘s fellow absentees have sat a row or two down from Lam and his analysts over the last few weeks, the loose forward has been right by the head coach’s side, going through every emotion with one another.

Lam‘s side haven’t got the results they’d have hoped for with the treatment room at the Leigh Sports Village still rammed, but the Leopards chief insists there’s probably no better time for his captain to pick his brains.

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Leigh Leopards boss Adrin Lam explains innovative reason for captain John Asiata appearing in coaches’ box during time out injured

Speaking to LoveRugbyLeague after Leigh’s Rivals Round defeat at Salford Red Devils last week, Lam explained that it was he who had asked Asiata – who joined the club as one of Lam’s first signings in 2022 – to sit alongside the staff in recent weeks.

He detailed: “It was my choice… I just want him there so that he learns from me on what my thinking is in different parts of the game, so that he gets it a little bit better.

“John’s a really smart player anyway and he understands the philosophy of mine.

“I work really hard with him and the spine of the team to understand the way that we want to play, but him just being there next to me means he gets a better feel of me when things are under pressure.”

Asiata’s fortunes where injuries are concerned haven’t been positive in any sense of the word in recent months. The ex-Samoa & Tonga international missed Leigh’s last four games of last season including their defeat in the Super League play-offs at Hull KR.

John Asiata and Adrian Lam Leigh Leopards Challenge Cup final Alamy
Leigh Leopards captain John Asiata (left) and head coach Adrian Lam (right) lift the Challenge Cup at Wembley in August 2023

He then returned for the start of the 2024 season, but in Round 3 at St Helens – having been sin-binned earlier in the contest – tore a calf muscle. That was on March 1, and the veteran – who will turn 31 this month – is expected to miss at least another three weeks of action.

But as his return edges closer, Lam detailed how grateful he was to his captain for the input he’s provided in-game, saying: “I’m providing (guidance on) what we should doing and he can hear those messages. I’ll ask him his opinions at times for him to give feedback.

“We are missing John. He’s a real key leak of us and we’ve got to change the way we play a little bit (without him), which I think we have and I think we’ve been going decent, just ourselves to blame for the outcome tonight really.”

The Leopards host Wigan Warriors in Round 7 before heading to Hull KR in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup, a rematch of last year’s final in the same competition.

Lam’s side then face Warrington Wolves at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Round 8 and then welcome Catalans Dragons to the LSV in Round 9.

The following week is when Asiata is currently predicted to return, with the Leythers hosting Castleford Tigers on May 4 in Round 10 of the campaign.

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