Leigh-united: Who would you like to see return to your club?

James Gordon

Gareth Hock became the latest in a long line of former players to return to Leigh, making it 11 in total under John Duffy.

After the disappointment in not reaching the Championship top four last season, the Centurions were forced to clear the decks as they reverted from full time back to part-time, with Duffy, himself a former Leigh player, brought in from Featherstone as coach.

With no squad left, but for hooker Micky Higham and a sprinkling of youngsters, Duffy has had to recruit steadily over the past six months or so to bring back the Leigh DNA that some might say was lost under the big-spending regime of Derek Beaumont, who remains at the club, over the past couple of years.

Hock, who returns having left Barrow without playing a game following a pre-season injury, starred for Leigh in Super League back in 2017, making a total of 53 appearances after joining them in 2015 from Salford in a case that saw Beaumont and Salford counterpart Marwan Koukash appear on TV show Judge Rinder.

Long-time Leigh journalist and oracle Mark Taylor has been asking what other former Leigh players would fans like to see return – and we extend that question to fans of all clubs, while looking a bit more at the 10 that have been “Leigh-united” this season.

Gregg McNally – (in)famous for scoring the last try at Leigh’s old Hilton Park ground, albeit for opponents Whitehaven. The full-back was released by Bradford so that he could be closer to home to support his ill wife, and the Centurions soon snapped him up to help him add to 147 appearances in his first spell.

Jonny Pownall – one of a clutch of players that followed former Leigh coach Paul Rowley to Toronto Wolfpack, winger Pownall scored 25 tries in 24 appearances in the Canadian club’s first season but became a victim of their constant recruitment. He made 92 appearances for Leigh in his first spell.

Iain Thornley – a player not quite immersed in the history of Leigh but that has technically made a return is former Wigan, Salford and Hull KR centre Thornley, who made a solitary dual-registration appearance for the Centurions from Wigan back in 2013.

Martin Ridyard – his surprise loan departure to Huddersfield during Leigh’s Super League season was perhaps a sign of where things went wrong for the Centurions. Now firmly back where his heart belongs, Ridyard has made more than 250 career appearances, all but 27 of them coming for the Centurions. He is the club’s third highest points scorer and made his club debut in the first ever competitive game at Leigh Sports Village.

Tom Spencer – an eye-catching recruit in the off-season, prop Spencer made his 100th Leigh appearance earlier this year having spent a season away at London Broncos, who he helped earn promotion back to Super League.

Andy Thornley – returning to the club from Swinton, the back-rower played 73 times for Leigh in his first spell, having come through the youth system at Wigan.

Liam Hood – a short-lived spell away from the club saw the hooker return from Widnes following their administration. Hood was one of the players affected by Leigh’s demise last season, and left to continue his full-time rugby, before admitting defeat after experiencing yet another financial crisis with the Vikings.

Jake Emmitt – left Leigh under a bit of a cloud last time, going Down Under to Australia mid-season before then returning to these shores with Swinton. Now in his third spell, he is close to 100 games for the club and has also played for Toronto.

James Laithwaite – the injury plagued back-rower had hung up his boots before getting the call from Leigh this season. Previously with the club on dual-registration from Warrington, making 12 appearances, he has had spells with Hull KR, Toronto and Bradford.

Ryan Brierley – now on a rolling loan deal from Toronto, Brierley was Leigh’s top try scorer for four seasons running before becoming another player to join the Canadian dream, but is now back to maybe inspire the downfall of his parent club.

Outside the 10 above, Higham of course started his career at Leigh, making his debut in 1999, before enjoying a stellar Super League career with Wigan, St Helens and Warrington.

Youngster Josh Woods, currently on loan from Wigan, has a Centurions season ticket and Adamson brothers Toby and Luke both came through the set-up at local amateur club Leigh East.

Who would you like to see your club bring back? Let us know in the comments below.