Zak Hardaker lauds Leigh Leopards “brilliant” show in Super League opener

Drew Darbyshire
Zak Haraker Leigh Leopards

Photos: SWpix and News Images

Zak Hardaker was full of praise for Leigh owner Derek Beaumont, who helped put on a stunning entertainment show on their return to Super League.

The Leopards celebrated their return to the top flight in style on Friday night, when they welcomed rivals Salford to the Leigh Sports Village.

There plenty of entertainment before kick-off. There were animations of leopard print projected on to the front of the stadium whilst leopard noises were played upon your entrance into the ground.

And the 8,000-strong crowd were treated to a full 45-minute set from indie rock band Scouting for Girls and pyrotechnic displays on the pitch from The Fuel Girls before a magnificent firework display as the teams entered the field.

Adrian Lam’s side couldn’t get the win having fallen short to the Red Devils 20-10, but it was a night to remember for the Lancashire town.

“I think it’s brilliant,” Hardaker told Love Rugby League after the game. “Just walking into the stadium, hearing the big roar (from the speakers). I had to have a bit of a chuckle at it, it was pretty good!

“That’s a new experience for fans who haven’t come here before or even fans who have been coming here for 30 or 40 years. It’s something new isn’t it?”

“People laugh and joke about it but they talk about it and I think that’s what Derek wanted. He wanted an event tonight that people would go away and talk about.

“We had to walk over there (to Leigh East for the warm-up) so we missed the Scouting for Girls stuff and the fire breathing girls and whatever else was going on but I told my family and friends to come down a bit earlier so I’ll ask them about it and see if they enjoyed it.

“It was something for the club to celebrate being back in Super League. Derek is really enthusiastic about what he wants to achieve this year and we are right behind it. All we can do is try and perform on the pitch. We gave it a good go but we’ll fix things up.”

Zak Hardaker hails Leopards rebrand

Leigh went through a rebrand over the off-season. They changed their name from Centurions to Leopards, and it has got the backing of the players.

“I don’t mind (it),” Hardaker told Love Rugby League. “It’s something Derek is really passionate about. He is the owner and pays the bills.

“I think it is something that has definitely grown. In the first few weeks when we got the Leopards t-shirts it was a bit like ‘these are a bit tasty!’ but as the weeks have gone on, everyone has jumped onboard.

“We keep getting new kit and the designs are getting better and opinions are getting taken into account. It’s just something we’ve got to roll with and it’s good that we’re just a bit different to everyone else.”

Leigh’s night to remember praised by opposition coach

Salford coach Paul Rowley, who used to coach Leigh, had to take his side over to local amateur club Leigh East for their warm-up but he praised his former club’s event.

“They wanted to celebrate their Super League debut with a good event,” Rowley said.

“They did a great job in getting their supporters to come and support them. It’s not too far down the East Lancs for Salford to come to Leigh as well. It’s a great rivalry we have. Both sets of fans contributed to a wonderful atmosphere.

“Thankfully for us, it was our fans that got to sing the loudest at the end. They were absolutely immense. I do think that sort of away support, in what was always going to be a tough encounter, really did pull the lads through. Without them, we don’t get the win, no way.

“We warmed up at Leigh East but there’s do dramas with us. Leigh put a great event on so it was the least we could contribute to making it a good day for everybody.”

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