Umyla Hanley rise charted as Leigh Leopards and Wigan Warriors coaches praise winger

Drew Darbyshire
Umyla Hanley Leigh Leopards

Umyla Hanley (right) in training with Leigh Leopards

Umyla Hanley has had to wait patiently for his chance at Leigh Leopards – but the young gun has taken his opportunity with both hands.

The 22-year-old arrived at Leigh ahead of last season from neighbours Wigan Warriors. He made just two first team appearances for the Challenge Cup holders in 2023, featuring on loan for League 1 side Rochdale Hornets as well as having a shoulder reconstruction.

Hanley was given a chance in Adrian Lam’s side last month when winger Tom Briscoe was sidelined with a long-term calf injury – and it’s safe to say he has made his mark in Super League.

The Wigan-born winger has scored eight tries in four games, including two hat-tricks in the last two weeks against Featherstone Rovers and Salford Red Devils.

But it’s not just his try scoring ability that has been impressive. He is also averaging more than 18 carries per game as well as 179 metres.

“He’s also had 20 carries and he’s made over 220 metres (in some games), which are international sort of statistics,” Lam told Love Rugby League.

“We understand that he’s having a big crack and these are the parts of coaching you love most.. When you give a player an opportunity and they take it with open hands which is what Umyla has done.

“At that average he’ll be scoring 50 tries this year I hope! But we’ll wait and see.. Just keep in mind that Umyla is only young and is inexperienced in the sense of starting and there will be mistakes around his game because he has got to get those (amount of) matches racked up.

“But with that, the work ethic that he’s got – and his understanding of who we want to be as a club – his standards are exactly what we want to be and he’s doing a great job for us at the moment, so that’s a shining light.”

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Leigh Leopards’ Umyla Hanley set to play against former club Wigan Warriors for the first time

Umyla Hanley Alamy
Umyla Hanley in action for Wigan in 2022

Hanley will come up against his former club Wigan on Thursday night, which will be the first time he’s faced the Warriors since departing the club at the end of the 2022 season.

The former England Academy international joined Wigan’s youth ranks when he was 15, spending five years at his hometown club before moving across the borough to Leigh.

Hanley made just one appearance in 2022 under Wigan head coach Matt Peet, who oversaw the youngster’s development in the academy, but the Warriors boss says he is pleased to see Hanley now excelling with the Leopards.

“I worked a lot with Umyla,” Peet said. “I’m pleased to see him showing what he is capable of, I think he’s a very talented lad, a good kid, and I’m not surprised to see him doing well now he’s got an extended run and we wish him well.

“I always knew he had that ability, so it’s good to see a player delivering on their potential and he’s grabbing his opportunity with both hands.

“Sometimes it is timing, isn’t it? When the opportunity presents itself, there’s been times when Umyla has been out with injury as well so I think everyone would always be confident that when Umyla got a run, when he was fit and well, that he could take it so it’s not that it’s taken him any longer than expected, sometimes it’s just about the stars aligning about the players in front of you and his own fitness and form as well.”

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Hanley adds plenty of utility value to Leigh, being able to play wing, centre and full-back – but which does Lam see him playing in the long-term?

“I think it’s wing or centre,” Lam replied. “He missed a lot of last season with a shoulder reconstruction but after having that operation he worked really in the off-season, he came back bigger and stronger than he’s ever been.

“Whether he stays on the wing or plays some at centre – he played centre last year in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup against York and got the player of the match – so we know he can play centre as well. It’s something we’ll just monitor as we go along.”

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