LEIGH head coach Neil Jukes won’t have split loyalties when Centurions attempt to become the first team to inflict defeat on new World Club champions Wigan tomorrow night.
Jukes’ early RL memories come from standing on the terraces at Central Park supporting the likes of Brett Kenny, John Ferguson and George Fairbairn.
He even watched Warriors boss Shaun Wane and Wigan’s Class of ’87 beat Manly to become world champions for the first time.
Fast forward 30 years, however, and Jukes only wants two points for buoyant Leigh at the DW Stadium.
“I watched a lot of my rugby as a junior at Central Park,” he confirmed. “I am a Wigan lad so that’s what you did.
“But since I walked into Hilton Park 23 years ago there has been only one club close to my heart and that is Leigh Centurions.
“To go to Wigan as Leigh head coach will make me immensely proud. But I won’t get carried with the situation I find myself.
“I’ll make sure myself, the staff and the players do what they are paid to do which is to make this town proud of their team.
“But this will be our toughest match so far,” agreed Jukes. “When this club gets the fixtures the first one it looks out for is Wigan.
“There is a good rivalry and healthy respect but no hatred.
“As a team we will need to be on our mettle. We need to be as good as, if not better, than we have been all year to give ourselves a chance.
“We have to got make sure we turn up for one another with the right attitude and technically be better than we were last week with and without the ball.”
Wigan return to action at the DW for the first time since beating Cronulla in their ‘war of the worlds’ clash and the controversy over last week’s postponed home game against Widnes.
They do so with a 100 percent success rate in Super League this year, coming from a 14-points deficit, to beat the Vikings.
“I would have been surprised if they hadn’t won,” added Jukes still glowing from Leigh’s historic 24-16 win over St Helens-their first in Super League since April 2005.
“It is obviously difficult backing up a big game like they had come through.
“But Shaun is a great motivator and they have healthy competition throughout the whole squad.
“However, they have a really good mentality about what they do and that is the reason why they were successful at the back end of last season when they were hammered by injuries.”
Leigh have no new injury concerns but will make a late check on Cory Paterson after the big Australian suffered game ending concussion against Saints.
“We have got people clipping at the heels of the team that played last week,” added Jukes. “Martyn Ridyard, Ryan Hampshire, Curtis Naughton, Lachlan Burr –all good players with lots of energy who are waiting an opportunity to stake their claim.”
Leigh are packed with Wigan old boys including: Gaz Hock, Micky Higham, Harrison Hansen, Danny Tickle and Sam Hopkins.
“I challenge our fans to get behind Gaz and the rest of the boys in numbers to demonstrate to Super League that we add value to the competition, not only on the field but with our vociferous support in numbers,” said owner Derek Beaumont.
“Saints fans showed last Friday how big they are, bringing close to 3,000 to the LSV. I challenge our fans to beat that with our visit to the DW for what will without doubt be a fantastic atmosphere with a lot at stake. “