Leigh Leopards head coach Adrian Lam concedes there are lessons to be learned from premature play-off exit

Ben Olawumi
Adrian Lam

Adrian Lam - Alamy

Leigh Leopards boss Adrian Lam says he and his team will learn lessons from their ‘fizzled out’ campaign after being knocked out of the Super League play-offs at the first hurdle.

The Leopards – promoted last October – have enjoyed a remarkable first year back in the top flight, reaching the play-offs for the first time in their history and lifting the Challenge Cup under the arch at Wembley for the first time in 52 years.

Heading into their Eliminator clash at Craven Park against Hull KR this evening, the Leythers were the underdogs away from home, and so it proved with a 20-6 defeat in which they never really got going.

With a depleted squad, Lam hinted that a lacklustre performance was to be expected, but vowed he would take all the lessons he could into 2024.

Leigh Leopards boss Adrian Lam on learning lessons from premature play-off exit

The Leigh head coach told Love Rugby League post-match: “I don’t want to go on about it, but we were creaking towards the end and you know as a coach that you need momentum going into finals.

“We did that in the Challenge Cup, and we didn’t have that here. We had to change the way we played when we lost all three of the senior players in our team – Ricky Leutele, Zak Hardaker and John Asiata. They’re the three main leaders of the team, both with actions and voice.

“When they’re missing, and Frankie Halton as well who was going to bring us a spark towards the back end of the season, we had to find another way.

“Some of the players levelled off after the Challenge Cup as opposed to keeping improving, so I think that for me is a lesson in terms of what do we do different next time?

“The commitment at training and the day-to-day standards we’ve set have never dropped along the way, it was just on gameday that there just seemed to be a dip there. That’s a lesson for me as a coach moving forward.”

Adrian Lam promises seven new additions to pack ahead of 2024

Since those injuries to key men noted above, a lot has been made of the fact that Leigh have operated with such a small pack this term, the smallest in the division.

Owner Derek Beaumont earlier this week told Love Rugby League they would have better depth in 2024, and would not allow a similar scenario to unfold again. Boss Lam re-iterated that message following the play-off exit, promising in his presser that seven new players will join up ahead of next term.

He continued: “Touch wood, we’ve got by most of the season with the same player playing every week, hence we have Asiata playing for 22 or so weeks plus the Challenge Cup.

“No one else really trains in that position, then he goes missing and we have to think about what we do, that’s another lesson.

“Overall, we’ll build our squad a little bit bigger, and we’re still recruiting. We’ve got a five-year plan in place, and the goal next year will be to finish higher than we have this year.

“The plan is to recruit players in that are going to win us a competition. We’ve done a pretty good job up to here. Last year in the Championship to sign 15 players was an absolute nightmare because no one wanted to come to a club that wasn’t guaranteed Super League promotion until the last day of the season.

“It’s been a bit easier to recruit this year, so as each year comes along, our retention and recruitment are going to come to the forefront. We’ll make sure that we get that right, and that will give us a better chance of finishing higher up the ladder each year.”

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