Derek Beaumont shared the glory around on Saturday in the moments after Leigh Leopards sealed a first Challenge Cup triumph since 1971, making a beeline for two of the club’s former players at Wembley.
Neither Martyn Ridyard nor Gregg McNally have ever been formally associated with the ‘Leopards’, but as ‘Centurions’ prior to the club’s re-brand back in October, they amassed over 400 appearances in red and white between them.
Half-back Ridyard is the club’s third-highest points scorer ever, grabbing a brace of tries against Huddersfield Giants back in 2016 as Leigh sealed promotion to Super League through the ‘Qualifiers’.
Both club legends of an era which saw the Leythers dominate the second tier without troubling the first, Ireland international McNally won a Northern Rail Cup, 3 Championship League Leaders’ Shields and a Championship Grand Final in his long spell at the Leigh Sports Village.
The duo both play in League 1 now with Oldham, but made the journey down to the national stadium to support their former club, and were rewarded with the chance to get a hold of the Challenge Cup trophy in the crowd courtesy of the Leigh owner.
Leigh Leopards owner involves past players in trophy celebrations
When all the celebrations had levelled out, Beaumont took the time to thank the pair for all they had done for the club, along with many others.
He said: “It was nice to see people like Martyn and Gregg, who have been big players for us over the years, at the end there. I spotted them in the crowd and was able to take the trophy over and let them see it.
“As much as they’ve not been part of this team, they’ve been a big part of what this club is about and what’s got us to where we are.
“There’s a lot of other players like them too. I had a nice message off Ryan Brierley who was a big part of us and scored a lot of tries over the years.
“Everybody should feel a part of this, not just the team today. It’s massive for the town and it will only get bigger and better.”
Derek Beaumont: ‘It won’t be 50 years before we make this final again’
Leigh’s wait for a major honour has been one which has gone on for 41 years, and their wait to lift the Challenge Cup has gone on for another 11.
There have since been triumphs, but not to this extent, and Beaumont is in agreement with Leopards’ head coach Adrian Lam that the club’s fans won’t have to wait as long for the next one.
The owner affirmed: “I don’t think it will be 50 years until we make this final again, I’ll 100% go on record and say that. You never know when you’re going to win it, but I think we’re in a good place as a club now.
“I know what our recruitment is for next year and I know that most of this team is staying together, the coaching team are staying together, and what we are doing here isn’t by fluke. We’ve won a final, we’ve beaten the world champions (St Helens) to get to it.
“People could argue that maybe Wakefield at the time when we beat them (Round 6) weren’t where they are now and York had a right good do at us (Quarter-Finals), and obviously they are a Championship side. We beat the world champions to get here, nobody can take anything from us from that, and Hull KR showed today that they are a hell of a side themselves. It could have gone either way.
“I said to our guys last night, I finished by saying ‘I’ve been around the game around 10 years, obviously I’ve been here before that but I’ve never come close to what I’ve got now, never come close to it’.
“I said that you see the defence against St Helens [in the semi-final], that won us the game. Our first win in Super League this year against Hull KR was all off defence, so everything has been off that. I think I said on TV that we’d only concede 10 today, and that I couldn’t see us conceding more than that.
“I felt like we’d score 30, but Hull KR proved us wrong. I said (to the squad last night), ‘Listen, it would take an unbelievable, monumental effort and a special group of people to beat you tomorrow and if the team does that, then I’ll shake every one of their hands and congratulate them on it because they’ll 100% deserve it. But if we play our best rugby and they play their best rugby, I think we’ll get it’.
“In the end I don’t think either team played their best rugby, but I think we deserved the win, just about.”
Beaumont sticks around for 1895 Cup final
A further mark of respect was shown by Beaumont under the arch, as he paused his celebrations with Leigh to remain behind and watch the entirety of what proved to be a thrilling 1895 Cup final, with Halifax Panthers just pipping Batley Bulldogs.
The Leopards’ chief is the principal sponsor of the competition through his business, AB Sundecks, though there were enough people in attendance from the company that would have allowed him to head straight off with Leigh had he chosen to.
His own club won it last year with another impressive final showing against Featherstone Rovers at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and speaking in-between the end of the Challenge Cup Final in the capital and the beginning of the 1895 Cup final, Beaumont confirmed he wouldn’t be missing a minute of the action.
He said: “I just want to say massive respect to Batley getting to Wembley for the first-ever time, I love this competition, that’s why I sponsor it. The same to Halifax Panthers t00.
“These boys coming out now, it’s their time, it’s their moment, so I wish them all the best of luck. I’m going to go upstairs and watch this game.
“I won’t leave until it’s finished, my wife (Laura) is going to present the trophy, and I think this is a big part of our sport. I think this should get all the credit, and I hope you guys give it all the exposure it deserves.”