Leigh Leopards boss Adrian Lam has confirmed that they could well be without captain John Asiata, as well as star centre Zak Hardaker and forward Frankie Halton for Friday night’s big clash with Wigan Warriors.
With their spot in the top six now cemented for a first time in the club’s history, Lam’s men realistically must beat his former employers at the Leopards’ Den to ensure they have the home advantage in the first round of the play-offs against Hull KR.
The Robins take on relegated Wakefield Trinity, and could pip Leigh to 4th spot, forcing Lam’s side into a third trip to Craven Park this year.
And if task wasn’t already a tough one, needing to stop a rampant-looking Wigan side who themselves need to win to ensure they lift the League Leaders’ Shield, Friday’s hosts must now prepare to do battle without three of their key men.
Leigh Leopards sweating on key trio for ‘Battle of the Borough 3.0’
Skipper Asiata and former Man of Steel Hardaker were both absent from the squad for last week’s victory against Wakefield on home soil, which saw Trinity’s relegation to the Championship confirmed.
Just as he did to send KR down back in 2016 playing for Salford Red Devils in the Million Pound Game, Gareth O’Brien kicked a drop goal to win the game in golden point extra time.
The pair are likely to remain sidelined though, alongside a new addition to the injury list in Halton, who was named in the 21-man squad last week but missed out on the matchday squad, as confirmed by boss Lam today.
He told Love Rugby League: “It’ll be a very similar squad to last week. There’s some doubt over Asiata with that hamstring strain, doubt over Frankie Halton with a hamstring strain, and doubt over Zak Hardaker with a broken hand.
“They’re the three players that are in that position, but I think the rest of the squad is the same as last week. Not too much to change, we had a really difficult game here last week against Wakey, who were desperate to win and played some good rugby.
“They could have easily won that game. We were off it a little bit. I thought our defence was reasonably good, we gave them a couple of tries, but we fought hard there and never gave up. That’s who we’ve been this year, so to get to golden point, and win, has certainly helped us to stay in that top four.
“We’ve got a big match this Friday night to remain in that top four against a team that are playing to be League Leaders. A massive week for us.”
Hardaker’s injury could be season-ender
31-year-old Hardaker has featured 27 times for the Leopards in his first year at the club, crossing for four tries so far including one in their Challenge Cup semi-final victory over St Helens to send them to Wembley.
The ex-England and Great Britain international has been one of the key cogs in Lam’s side, but the boss has hinted at the squad needing to learn to cope without him for the time being, admitting we may have seen the last of him this year.
Lam continued: “We’ve got a scan booked in on Zak’s hand to see what level it’s at, and then from that we can make a decision moving forward.
“It could be for the rest of the season yet, we’re not sure on that, but we’re going to give him every opportunity. He could probably play with it, but whether it’s worth the risk to do that for the future, we’ve got to make a decision on that.
“We’ll do that once we get this scan sorted, and apart from that, I think Asiata had a slight strain but he’s been running today, so we’ll see how he goes for the rest of the week.”