TOM Armstrong knows that Leigh Centurions can fuel his desire for success on and off the field.
The talented 24-year-old centre, who has signed a full-time playing contract with the club for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, pays tribute to the forward-thinking Centurions head coach Paul Rowley.
Rowley’s enlightened approach to player welfare was instrumental in securing the services of Armstrong, after his try-scoring stand-out display in the Centurions’ heroic Tetley’s Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat, at Headingley Carnegie made people sit up and take notice.
Armstrong leads a double life; he is a student at Manchester University just about to embark on the fourth and final year of a Masters Degree in Petroleum Engineering. But in between the demands of lectures, tutorials and assignments he fits in his rugby commitments with the Kingstone Press Championship high-flyers.
“It’s a breath of fresh air to have Paul as my coach,” Armstrong says. “He’s one of the main reasons why I’m delighted to stay at the club. You don’t find someone with his approach every day of the week.
“In the professional environment many clubs see their full-time players as doing a job and there can be tunnel vision. When I was younger and doing my A-Levels I was always faced with the decision of either being a full-time rugby player or a student. I felt I couldn’t do both. To combine doing a degree and being a full-time rugby player with many other clubs would be impossible. It simply wouldn’t be an option for me.
“For many players it’s a case of choosing rugby or studies, one or the other. It’s a shame as many rugby union players I know are able to fit in their studies around playing. A few of my mates play for Sale and combine a degree with being a full-time player but rugby union seems to have the right ethos and too many Rugby League clubs don’t. A player shouldn’t have to choose and make those decisions.”
Armstrong made a try-scoring debut for his hometown club St Helens in 2009 and later played for Leigh as a dual contract player in 2011. Famously, he scored the match-winning try in the Centurions’ Northern Rail Cup Final victory over Halifax to write himself into Leigh folklore. After spells at Swinton in 2012 and a championship-winning season with Sheffield Eagles in 2013 he returned to the LSV.
Leigh Head Coach Paul Rowley said: “Tom is very low maintenance for the coaching staff and is a model of consistency. It is especially pleasing to secure his services at a time when the vultures were swarming around. A lot of our players made people sit up and take notice with their performances against Leeds. Tom is continuing with his studies and is currently undertaking a Masters degree and I am committed to supporting him in this regard.”