LEIGH Centurions general manager Richie Blackmore is to step down from his role and return with his family to New Zealand.

Blackmore was originally interviewed for the head coach position with Centurions last December before the club opted to promote Paul Rowley to that role in the wake of a hectic pre-season and a delay in the visa application process.

Former New Zealand international Blackmore, who had playing spells over here with Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers, then accepted an amended position of general manager and has worked hard since his appointment to build the Centurions’ profile locally.

Blackmore said: “Regrettably, with my family we have come to the conclusion to return home to New Zealand and explore other opportunities.

“The chance we were given by the club has been one we will always be grateful for and has allowed us the opportunity to learn new skills and make new friends all of which has added richness to our life.

“The way the supporters and organisations such as LISA and Touchdown Club have welcomed us from the very beginning has made our eight months here so much smoother.

“Without doubt the Centurions bug is now in our blood and we will always watch how the club progress and deep down will be cheering them on – but not against Castleford and Leeds.

“On behalf of myself and my family I would like to thank everyone for their wonderful gestures and wish the club all the very best as they continue to plot their way toward Super League.”

Trevor Barton MBE, Centurions’ chief executive, said: “On behalf of everyone at the club, we are sad that Richie is leaving us.

“He has a real passion for the game which he genuinely shares when asked. We hope his experiences with us will stand him in good stead for whatever the future has in store. We wish him the very best.”

Club chairman Keith Freer added: “I am genuinely sad that Richie is returning home. He is a good man but we must respect him and his family’s wishes.”

In other news, everyone at Leigh Centurions was saddened on Monday to hear of the death of valued volunteer Wayne Keegan.

Over recent years, Wayne had helped immensely with his photographs bringing the club website and matchday programme to life in addition to his similar passion for Leigh East.