The start of a new long-term Super League rivalry

Drew Darbyshire
Matt Peet Wigan Warriors and Adrian Lam Leigh Leopards SWpix Super League launch

With the Battle of the Borough returning on Thursday, Leigh and Wigan will be hoping this is only the start of a new long-term rivalry in Super League.

The Leopards and Warriors haven’t had chance to face each other in a competitive match too often in the modern era, but it’s a rivalry that dates back decades, with both clubs being based in the Wigan borough.

But with Leigh being back in Super League after winning promotion last season, they hope to find a long-term home in the top flight.

And having a strong Leigh team can only be a good thing for rugby league in the borough, according to Wigan skipper Liam Farrell.

He told Love Rugby League: “I don’t think it could be any better for the borough.

“I think having two teams in the Wigan and Leigh area is outstanding and come Thursday there will be households supporting Leigh and Wigan, so it splits households. It has the makings of a really big game.

“Coming here today (for the joint press conference), it already has the feel of a different week and its one we’re looking forward to.”

Leigh’s respect for fellow Super League club Wigan

Josh Charnley Leigh Leopards SWpix Adrian Lam

Leigh winger Josh Charnley will come up against former club Wigan on Thursday | Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix

Leigh owner Derek Beaumont says he has a lot of admiration for neighbours Wigan for their conveyer belt of academy products over the years.

He said: “A lot of people think there is this massive rivalry as clubs and I guess there is from fans but in terms of actual relationships it is actually really good and healthy.

“I’ve always respected Wigan for what they are doing and what they stand for.

“When you look at their youth structure and the players they provide to the game, not just in their own club, it is something to aspire to have.

“Its just doing it our way if you will, the rebrand, the whole reimagining the sport that IMG are doing, Lammy (Adrian Lam) supports what we are doing but when he sees what it costs at the end of the year, we might have a marquee player instead!

“I just think it adds to the occasion, we want to make it special for players to come and play here. When away teams come and play here, I want them to feel like they are playing in a big event like a final and that’s why we put the shows on.

“They are warming up with a live band, the crowds are in at 7pm in big numbers, so it is creating an event and atmosphere that the players are the pinnacle of so hopefully we get a big crowd and a performance we can be proud of.”

Beaumont dreaming of the day Leigh face Wigan at Wembley

The Leopards owner is dreaming of the day his club face Wigan at Wembley.

Leigh have caught the eye with some impressive pre-match entertainment, going alongside a strong start to the season for Adrian Lam’s side.

But Beaumont’s big dream is for the two borough clubs to be lining up alongside each other in final one day.

He said: “We’re now in a position where we can compete and keep building.

“As much as we like seeing Wigan be successful, how good would it be one day if we had a Challenge Cup final that was Wigan v Leigh or a Grand Final or a semi-final in the play-offs? I just think it would be absolutely massive.

“Last year we won the 1895 Cup and then watched Wigan win the Challenge Cup, I really enjoyed that day.

“How good would it be to hand the 1895 Cup over to someone this year and then take part in the Challenge Cup final? It’s what dreams are made of. Hopefully one of us, if not both of us, can get there.”

Derby week hits different for Kris Radlinski

Radlinski, a proud Wiganer who is now the chief executive of his hometown club, is made up to see the rivalry with Leigh reignited this year.

He said: “I’ve obviously been around the game a long time and you tend to get caught up week to week going to games. I’m not going to say in a rut but you get caught up with the typical thing but this one just feels different.

“First of all, I agree with Matty (Peet) in terms of the style of rugby Leigh are playing, but what Derek and Jukesy (Neil Jukes) are doing here is really exciting for the sport as well.

“Early on in the season, I text Derek and I said the sport needs disruptors and I think he’s disrupting and doing things differently and that has to be good for where we are going as a sport.

“I’m really looking forward to Thursday night’s game, but also the event and hype building up to it. It just feels different which has to be a good thing.”

Wigan coach “very impressed” with Leigh’s start in Super League

The Leopards have made a good start to life back in Super League, winning three games from six. They’ve already won more thanes than they did when they were last in the top flight in 2021.

And Peet has paid tribute to Leigh, saying he likes the look of Lam’s side this year.

He said: “I’m very impressed. I think in the most recent game you can see what they are building.

“Their team has always looked impressive on paper but I think it will take time to bed in. I think their first half performance against Hull on the weekend is up there with any team’s performance in Super League.

“Its alright saying Hull weren’t doing well but they were looking to build because it was the first time they had been back at home but Leigh’s attack was impressive.”

Leigh host neighbours Wigan in the Battle of the Borough on Thursday night, 8pm kick-off.

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