Leigh Leopards were a team with ‘down and out players’ – Adrian Lam grateful as Challenge Cup winners reap rewards of ‘self belief’

Josh McAllister
Leigh Leopards, Challenge Cup final.

Leigh Leopards celebrate their Challenge Cup victory over Hull KR

Leigh Leopards continue to prove their doubters wrong with a squad full of released, rejected and previously unknowns, with head coach Adrian Lam sharing his delight for the players. 

Son and star half-back Lachlan Lam kicked the winning drop-goal in extra time against Hull KR in a dramatic end to the spectacle in the capital for a 17-16 victory.

Adrian Lam was an emotional head coach following the victory, Leigh’s first Challenge Cup since 1971.

The 52-year-old, born in Papua New Guinea, was delighted for his squad that saw big changes ahead their return to Super League.

Having unveiled nine new signings alongside their rebrand last October, Leigh signed as many as 13 new faces altogether ahead of 2023 – and most of those are now enjoying their career best.

After failing to land the deal he wanted at Leeds Rhinos, 2015 Man of Steel winner Zak Hardaker made the move after securing his future beyond a one-year contract.

Having been released by Warrington at the end of last season, Oliver Holmes, Jack Hughes, Matt Davis and Robbie Mulhern made the short move to the Leigh Sports Village, with the latter proving to be one of the best forwards in 2023.

Adrian Lam said he couldn’t have grabbed the Ireland international quick enough after he became a free agent, failing to agree new terms at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. He also played a big part in the Challenge Cup triumph.

The head coach hailed his squad, admitting some were almost ‘down and out’ of the game, including Josh Charnley who was ready to hang up the boots last season before joining Leigh mid-season.

Lachlan Lam and his struggle to gain NRL minutes, Edwin Ipape’s rapid rise as one of best hookers in Super League having only ever featured in the Queensland Cup, Lam admits there’s stories everywhere in his squad and says he’s grateful they have received their rewards for hard work.

Adrian Lam: “There are stories everywhere.”

“The belief today was really, really high and we’ve worked hard to be here,” he said following the victory.

“The last 12 months is an incredible story, what we’ve done and even to be here, we’ve just built momentum every week as we’ve been going along.

“It’s a bit surreal at the moment, even being in this week has been surreal. Every step along this journey has been a great enjoyment.

“We’ve got a lot of players who have come from the outside and we’ve recruited in the last 18 months players who were down and out in some areas.

“I’m just so grateful. There are stories everywhere.

“Edwin Ipape not being in a team, nobody really knowing Kai O’Donnell, Josh Charnley can’t get in the Warrington team, Jack Hughes can’t get in, Robbie Mulhern can’t get in.

“The way that the group has got together in the last 18 months and those guys for six months has been incredible and I’m just grateful that everyone has been rewarded for their hard work today.”

READ NEXT: Leigh Leopards completing goal of ‘proving people wrong’ with Challenge Cup heroics, says Ed Chamberlain