SUNDAY is something of a dress rehearsal for Leigh Centurions, with the first round of the Kingstone Press Championship looming ever closer.
After friendlies against Super League clubs Warrington, Salford and Wigan, head coach Paul Rowley takes his troops to The Shay to face league rivals Halifax, kick off 3pm.
“We are coming up against one of the big hitters of the Championship and we are looking forward to it,” said Rowley.
“I’ve seen a bit of Halifax, they played against Featherstone recently and to be fair they were the better team for long periods. Featherstone have hit the ground running already so it’s going to be a tough one for us.
“But it is one we are looking forward to and we are working hard every week. That still remains our major focus.
“It’s about putting it together and continuing to improve. It’s about being more accountable and our job as coaches is to keep on cranking it up and getting more out of them.”
Tommy Goulden and Oliver Wilkes both missed out on selection at the weekend due to slight injuries, with Rowley saying: “If they are both fit, they will play against Halifax.”
Centurions improved their back-row options late last week when Kurt Haggerty joined the club on a season-long loan from Barrow Raiders.
The former Centurions Academy skipper left Hilton Park for St Helens and returned to play 10 first-team games for the club in 2009.
Since then he has also played for Blackpool, Widnes and Barrow.
Last season Haggerty proved one of the most competent back rowers in the Championship, helping himself to nine tries and 58 goals as Barrow survived relegation.
His form also saw him selected to play for Ireland in the 2013 World Cup where he figured at a packed Spotland against eventual semi-finalists Fiji.
Haggerty said: “I was contacted by Barrow when I got into training on Tuesday and they said that Leigh have come in for you and offered players in exchange.
“I spoke with Simon Finnigan who is a good friend and I also chatted to Paul (Rowley) and the deal was right for me.
“Not much has changed, other than the club being a lot more professional and it looks like it is going places.”
Rowley said: “Kurt came to us as a young lad and the club was very much in a transitional period at the time. It wasn’t a stable place. We were training at Lowton High School with no lines on the field and two foot of grass.
“Kurt has an obvious quality. I think I’ve made it quite public that I’ve been searching for that elusive ball playing second row. Kurt has that ability. He adds another string to our bow.”
Overall things are looking positive, with the Centurions largely under 20s side competing with North Wales Crusaders last Wednesday before a late try took the game away.
Josh Ward (a try and two goals) and Ryan Duffy (one try) troubled the score keepers but Chris Hankinson impressed enough to earn a first-team call-up, while Craig Briscoe and Joe Bullock did enough to earn a loan move to Barrow.