ANDY Bracek has fulfilled a lifelong ambition in joining home town club Leigh Centurions.

The vastly experienced forward learnt his rugby with Leigh Miners before embarking on a long and varied journey that has taken in St Helens, Warrington, Barrow, Crusaders, Halifax and Swinton and saw him pass significant career milestone of 300 career games during the past season.

Bracek says the jigsaw slotted into place when John Duffy was appointed Leigh Centurions coach.

"John's a good mate of mine and our families know one another," he explains. "It's been a bit of a waiting game since the end of the season and a few clubs were in for me. But I bided my time because I've always wanted to play for Leigh. I held my nerve and I'm so glad I did.

"John coached me at Swinton and he will bring so many qualities to Leigh. Over my career I've been coached by some very good technical coaches and some really good blokes. But in my experience it's only a handful who have both qualities.

"John certainly has the blend. He's a great man manager and a very good coach and I can't wait for the season to start.

"John is building a team of local lads who want to play for Leigh. A lot of them are young, hungry and have a lot to prove and even the more experienced lads like, say, Tom Spencer have the ability to go on and still have a long career in Super League.

"I've been in full-time environments and played a lot of Championship rugby in part-time set-ups. The only difference between Super League and Championship is the times you train. We work in between but still fit in the same amount of training and preparation for games."

Bracek, whose grandfather came over to Leigh from Slovenia after the last war and whose grandmother was Italian also has Welsh roots. He's played eight times for Wales including the 2011 Four Nations games against England, New Zealand and Australia. But above all he's a born and bred Leyther.

He pays tribute to the late Lloyd Pugsley and fellow coaches at Leigh Miners for instilling in him his love of the game and the dedication needed to play already successfully as a professional.

"I loved playing for Lloyd, I'd have run through a brick wall for him," Bracek says. "He taught me so much about the game, little things that I still remember now."

Bracek made his bow in Saints' first team playing against Leigh in Tommy Martyn's testimonial game in Dec 2003 and played his first Super League game against Bradford in 2004. But after 15 years as a professional and plenty of successes and heartbreak along the way he still has a burning desire to succeed.

"I enjoyed my time at Barrow and we had a lot of success until it all came tumbling down like a pack of cards," he says. "We won the 2009 Championship grand final against Halifax and that was a highlight. Crusaders looked like they were going to apply for an extended licence in Super League and then went under and as I also tore the ACL in my knee that was a low point.

"I enjoyed playing for Rhino (Karl Harrison) at Halifax and my time at Swinton under Duffs and Stuart Littler, another good friend of mine. "It was difficult at Swinton last year but we had a good group that stuck together and we managed to stay up. Stu's building a good, young side and the fans are passionate. I wish them well."

But now Bracek will have to get used to playing for, rather than against his home town club. "I always enjoyed playing against Leigh and got lots of stick and banter from the fans," he says. "But it was only because they were cross I wasn't playing for them. I know a lot of people around town and I'm really looking forward to playing in front of my mates every week.

"I've got a lot of rugby left in me and with the coaching staff here there's no way I'll get complacent about my fitness. I can't wait for the season to start."

Leigh Centurions head coach John Duffy said: "Andy's a great lad and will do anything for anybody. He's always harboured a bugbear about not playing for his hometown club and really wants to finish his career here. When he came to sign he was emotional about it and it showed how much it meant to him.

"Andy knows the Championship inside out and will be a calming influence on the younger players. He's tough and he's talented and he can play big minutes.

"He's great around people and he will soon become a favourite from the fans' point of view. They've always seen him as a villain but they'll soon change their perceptions of him. He's a great signing and I'm chuffed to have him on board."