Hunter-Paul looking to usher in new era at Leigh
Leigh Centurions star Robbie Hunter-Paul believes victory over Halifax in the Northern Rail Cup Final at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road on Sunday, July 17 could signal the beginning of an new era of success for the club.
Hunter-Paul is no stranger to winning, having lifted almost every trophy there is in Rugby League including the World Club Challenge and Challenge Cup and he is hoping to hang up his boots at the end of the season having ushered in a new generation of winners.
“I want to be part of creating a legacy here at Leigh,” said Hunter-Paul. “I want to be part of something which kicks on from here and that’s one of my driving factors in what is my final season in the game.
“But this is a chance to play in another final and one that I’m looking forward to. It makes it even more special because we are playing against the 2010 Grand Final winners in the shape of Halifax and they have turned a corner recently, so it’s shaping up to be a dynamic contest.
“Every final gives you the same exciting feeling. I’ve played in World Cup finals and Challenge Cup finals so I know what to expect in the situation. I played in the Northern Rail final with Salford as well and each game gives you the same level of excitement.
“All finals are special and the Northern Rail Cup final is exactly the same.”
Leigh’s on-field preparations for the final have been almost impeccable with the team having lost only two games all season, but off the field, the club has gone through a turbulent time with a points deduction due to a salary cap breach coming just weeks after the club’s former chairman stepped down.
“We’ve been docked points and we’ve had off the field turmoil,” said Hunter-Paul. “But we now need to fight for the club. The off pitch situation has created some solidarity and the team has come together because our backs are up against the wall. Adversity creates character and everyone is digging their heels in, from the staff to the supporters.
“Leigh were one of the founding clubs back in 1895 and there is a lot of history and heritage with the clubs and the players want to be a part of that. We’re forfeiting our playing bonus for the final and we’re investing that money back into the club because we’re all committed to helping this club continue that legacy.
“Money is a major part of professional sports now but that goes to show the side are determined to enjoy the other benefits of being an athlete - which is to be a winner.”
Despite his desire to help ensure Leigh come out on the right side of the result in Blackpool, Hunter-Paul knows that they can’t take the Halifax threat lightly, especially considering the West Yorkshire side are one of only two clubs to defeat the Centurions so far this campaign.
“The 2010 Northern Rail final was a brilliant occasion and a very entertaining game,” he said. “So we have that to live up to and the Northern Rail final is the first domestic final of the season which makes it special for everyone involved.
“But Halifax will be up for the game and they’ll be confident. Their defence was struggling at the start of the season but Brian Noble has come in and that has changed and they’re playing with a great team spirit now so they’ll be a tough opposition.
“They beat us earlier in the season and I think we had an off day that day but make no mistake, they have plenty of quality throughout their squad. They have an abundance of former Super League players all the way through the squad and if you have an off day against a team of that calibre then they will punish you and that’s what happened.
“That defeat woke us up a little and forced us to really work hard to kick on from our early season form and now we want to capitalise on that.”
Tickets for the 2011 Northern Rail Cup final at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool, on Sunday July 17 cost from just £12 for adults (£5 concessions) and are available by calling the RFL Ticket Office on 0844 856 11 13 or by visiting www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk
To keep up to date with all the latest news from the Northern Rail Cup follow @RLChampionships on Twitter.
For more details on Northern Rail visit http://www.northernrail.org/