Oliver Holmes admits he always believed Leigh Leopards could achieve something as special as their Challenge Cup triumph from the moment he started training with the club – before revealing how the shock circumstances surrounding his exit from Warrington last winter left him ‘upset’ and ‘disappointed’.
Holmes was part of the Leopards squad who won an historic first Challenge Cup since 1971 on Saturday. It was a moment that was a far cry from just a few months earlier, when he left the Wolves just one year into a three-year deal after being told his services were no longer required.
Now, for the first time, Holmes has lifted the lid on how surprising that moment was, including being told he wasn’t wanted the day before he went in for a knee operation last season.
“It’s disappointing and it was a bit of an ego check,” Holmes said after Saturday’s final.
“I didn’t expect it at the time. I had two years left on my deal and it was upsetting.
“It was the day before I went down for my knee operation too, which was rather.. well, my head was all over the place.
“I had the operation, started speaking to my agent when I came round and got things sorted. I looked at my options, settled on Leigh, and it’s worked out.”
Oliver Holmes knew belief was growing at Leigh Leopards during pre-season
Holmes continued: “It felt surprising, a little bit disappointing as well because I put my heart and soul into that year at Warrington but it’s business. I’ve got to respect that and I can’t complain because look where I am now.
“What happened at Warrington last year, I ended up signing at Leigh who were newly promoted and before I started training I wondered what this year would bring.
“But as soon as I got in and worked with the staff, there was a fair bit of belief that started growing. They had some foundations built the year prior, which is testament to Derek (Beaumont) and all the staff. As soon as I got into pre-season I knew this was the right move.”
Holmes had lost two finals earlier in his career with Castleford Tigers and admits the Leopards’ historic success is a moment that will take some time to sink in.
He said: “I’ve lost two before, so it’s a bit different this time around. I’m still getting used to it.
“There’d been a lot of talk during the week about our ‘why’ and our journeys here. Who’d have thought that a couple of guys that were here through unexpected circumstances would end up doing this, including myself. To come and do this is quite special.
“It’s been a crazy few months. It was unexpected, the move, but John Asiata mentions a lot that everything happens for a reason and I guess standing here now, he’s right.”
Holmes also insists Leigh’s cup success is by no means the culmination of their exploits this season, either – with the club still in position to push for an historic treble.
“It’s definitely just the start,” he said. “The club has built a fair bit of momentum over the last 18 months.
“We’re sat joint-second in the table and there has been occasions where you drop off after a Challenge Cup final, but a home semi-final is our goal. You’ve then got one shot at the big dance at the Grand Final – and we haven’t taken an eye off the top of the table yet. We’ve got momentum and I don’t see why we can’t challenge again.”