LEIGH Centurions head into the unknown this weekend when they head to Kingston Park, Newcastle – home of Premiership Rugby Union's Newcastle Falcons – to take on Gateshead Thunder.
While many will be tipping the Centurions to win comfortably Centurions Head Coach Paul Rowley wants his team to be as professional as they can be.
“Gateshead had their best result in a long time at the weekend, all be it a loss, but to go to York and lose in the last minute is a pheonominal achievement for them given the circumstances. York are a good team, so that's the benchmark.
“History tells us that Gateshead don’t come up with many wins but what is also the fear is that you don’t want to become the first.
“It can make you a little bit nervous but we’ll be professional and freshen things up in the team.”
Looking back on last Sunday’s 30-12 home success over Hunslet, Centurions boss Paul Rowley commented: “I thought it was a slow ruck, a skinny ten metres and that dragged the game down a level, but we scored 30 points in those circumstances and after looking at one of their tries on half-time he was offside, and it came from a kick. To only concede two tries, when one of those clearly wasn't a try, it was a real good effort.
“We are progressing nicely and we dug in again.”
Fresh faces could well be the order of the day with four dual contract players being eligible to play.
Ryan Brierley of Castleford will continue and indications are that Tom Spencer will be back from Wigan with young fullback Matty Russell also arriving from the DW Stadium. Russell has represented England against the Australian Schoolboys and he is joined by highly-rated Ryan Shaw of Warrington, who has also linked up with the Centurions. Russell and Cumbrian-born Shaw are set to train with the rest of the squad tonight, Thursday, with Rowley poised to hand former Salford outside back Adam Clay his Leigh debut.
Of Shaw, Rowley said: “I’ve done a bit of homework on him and he's been likened to Rhys Evans. He’s got quite a lot of Rhys attributes.
“He is very quick and had a loan spell at Castleford before they signed Jimmy Grehan. We don’t have depth in the centres and he gives us an option there and on the wing. He’s versatile and we are delighted to have him on-board.
“On my initial meeting with Wigan, Matty Russell was mentioned and his is the name I have admired and I’ve seen his progression for quite a while now. Russell will come to our club and add some pressure at fullback and give us other options.”
More good news for the Centurions is that Rob Parker is fit enough to resume playing.
He had caused Sports Village medical staff a few concerns with an irregular heartbeat on Sunday, but he will make a full recovery.
Ricky Bibey is also rated at ‘over 90 per cent’ for the Gateshead game, where a win will see Leigh progress to the quarter finals of the Northern Rail Cup.
In other news, Leigh will wear a specially commissioned kit on Good Friday which will feature Wigan and Leigh Hospice daisy in the design. “Almost everyone in Leigh knows someone who has been cared for by Wigan and Leigh Hospice,” said Centurions chief executive Trevor Barton.
“This is the first time the club has commissioned a charity shirt and the Hospice do fantastic work in our community so we are delighted to help in this way.
“I’m sure our fans will show their support for the cause by buying the shirts and I hope this is an initiative which we can repeat in years to come.”
The design will be worn just once – on Good Friday against Swinton Lions - and shirts worn on the day will be auctioned off to help the Hospice.