New season countdown: Leigh coach John Duffy admits club need a ‘miracle’ to avoid relegation
Leigh coach John Duffy believes it would be one of the biggest achievements in the club’s history if he can keep the Centurions in Super League in 2021.
The club’s two previous Super League campaigns, in 2005 and 2017, both ended in immediate relegation and Duffy admits it would take a near miracle for them to avoid the same fate.
The Centurions are four days away from their opening game against Wigan at Headingley but only three months ago were preparing to play in the Championship.
They got the nod in mid-December to take Toronto’s place in Super League for 2021 which meant they were at the back of the queue when it came to signing new players.
They were also given just £1million of central funding, compared to the £1.5m allocated to the rest of the other Super League clubs, and that is putting additional strain on the finances of generous club owner Derek Beaumont.
“We’re very blessed that we’ve got Derek as our owner and he can put his money into club,” Duffy told the PA news agency.
“It’s certainly difficult not having that funding but hopefully we pull off the miracle by staying up and get the full funding next year, that’s the goal.
“We’ve been written off by everyone – we know we’ve not come up on rugby merit so they’re right to put us at the bottom of the pile – but we believe in ourselves and believe we can do the impossible and stay up.
“It would certainly be one of the biggest achievements in the club’s history if we do stay up.”
Leigh have so far recruited 15 new players but, following a clear-out at the end of last season, that takes their squad total to just 24, compared to over 30 at the rest of the clubs, and Duffy says recruitment will continue into the season.
The club, who will be without former Salford centre Junior Sa’u for the start because of a knee injury, were last week loaned four youngsters by St Helens and Warrington and are being linked with a move for State of Origin hooker Nathan Peat.
“Obviously he would add value to us if we can get him,” said Duffy.
“I think we’ll just always be looking to strengthen because we’ve got a real small squad. You definitely need 30-plus with injuries and Covid and those teams with over 30 have been really smart.
“Hopefully in the next three or four weeks we can be up there as well.”
Duffy is also hoping the club’s off-field recruitment can help them quickly catch up with the established clubs.
“Obviously with the short turnaround, it was about getting the players who had not played for 12 months up to the speed of Super League,” Duffy said.
“That was the big task for us, getting the right staff members in, which we feel we have done with Paul Johnson from Wigan Warriors coming in as head of strength and conditioning and physio Trent Bowden joining from Hull KR.
“With their standards, coming from those clubs, it has picked us up.
“So we’re as good as we can be after the short preparation time. Everybody is excited and everybody has bought in and trained really hard.”