11:44am Thursday 2nd February 2012
By Mike Parsons
LEIGH Centurions have confirmed Paul Rowley has been appointed first-team coach and that a new role is being created for a general manager.
Rowley has signed a two-year deal, with the general manager from overseas yet to be confirmed while awaiting for a work visa.
But that position is known to be going to either New Zealander Richie Blackmore or Australian Matt Adamson, who both had playing spells in England.
Rowley has steered the club through a successful pre-season as acting head coach, following Ian Millward’s departure to Castleford Tigers.
Thirty-six year-old former Leigh, Halifax and Huddersfield hooker Rowley has guided Centurions through a successful pre-season, culminating in an impressive 42-16 win against Wigan Warriors at Leigh Sports Village on Friday.
But it was starting to look as though Leigh would start the season against Barrow in the Northern Rail Cup on February 12 without the coaching situation made stable.
Centurions Chairman Keith Freer said: “Paul’s appointment reflects the significant work that has been undertaken by Paul and the existing coaching staff in the development of the squad and the recent performances.
“The delay in appointing the general manager due to the problems with the UK Border Agency has meant that it would be in the interests of the first team that this appointment be made now and alleviate the uncertainty which was starting to evolve.
“The appointment of the general manager will still proceed as originally planned once the visa application has been processed.”
He added: “Paul has worked tirelessly over the past few months in developing the first-team squad and now making this appointment enables them to move forward with certainty and give the boost to the first-team squad knowing that the future is certain.”
Freer’s statement refers to the ‘general manager’ having an input from afar.
He said: “The new general manager fully endorses the decision that has been made and recognises the decision is in the interests of the club and of the team.
“The general manager is anxious to arrive and to start work in developing the club and working with Trevor Barton MBE and John Roddy and Phil Coffey in promoting and developing the business to support the first team.
“These are exciting times ahead.”
Leigh have come through considerbale financial difficulties between the two seasons, to the point that it looked as though the club might not survive at one stage.
But Freer said: “The current environment at the club is one of optimism enthused by the performances on the field and with the considerable support from LISA, the Lottery, and the Touchdown Club.
“The willingness of fans to get behind the club and purchase season tickets and merchandising has been tremendous.
“If we can build on this foundation I am very confident that the Club will start to turn a corner. The emphasis now is to grow the fan base and ensure that the attendances are as high as possibly can be achieved.
“The development of the relationship between the Centurions and Leigh Sports Village has improved immensely and Leigh Sports Village and Wigan Council are delighted with the progress we have made so far.
“LSV are looking forward to the arrival of the new general manager and together making the Centurions the strongest team both on and off the field.
“I think we can all look forward to the first game against Barrow with the dream team and retain the Northern Rail Cup."
Big wins against Super League neighbours Salford City Reds and Championship rivals Halifax were a precursor to the hat-trick against a Wigan side packed with talented youngsters and two new Super League signings on Friday night.
It was not just the result that stands out, but the fact that the performance was achieved with some late changes and missing faces through injury.
Rowley said: “There were some new challenges for the lads and it was great to see how they reacted to adversity, with a lot playing in alien positions.
“Quite a few of the lads hadn’t had a lot of game time and it was the first run out in the first team for a number of the young lads so it was valuable game time for them.
“Both sides fielded youthful teams and showed real strength in terms of youth development. We’ve had a good pre-season and now we have to increase the intensity for the start of the competitive season.
“Consistency is the key.”
New recruit Matt Gardner has shown some consistency in the scoring stakes, making it five tries in three warm-up games with the double he notched against Wigan.
And in a bonus for Rowley, the former Widnes Vikings threequarter – the brother of St Helens’ prolific winger Ade – has shown he is adept on the wing, in the centres and in the back row.
That kind of utility value could prove to be crucial with a smaller squad this time round, especially with back rower Tommy Goulden, prop Michael Ostick and half back Martyn Ridyard nursing injuries.
Centurions racked up 22 points before Wigan could muster a reply in front of a crowd of 2,297, with the visitors generously knocking back their share of the ‘gate’ receipts in a bid to help Leigh’s financial position.
The closest the gap was cut to was 16 points as tit-for-tat scoring ensued in the second period until Ryan Brierley’s 69th minute try and fifth conversion wrapped up the scoring.
Chris Rowe, Sam Hopkins, Dean McGilvery, Adam Clay and Stuart Littler all got their names on the scoresheet.
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