19 July 2023

John Asiata wants underdogs Leigh to continue doing ‘special’ things

19 July 2023

Leigh captain John Asiata insists he always believed his side could do “something special” as they prepare for their Challenge Cup semi-final against St Helens.

The loose forward has been part of the team which have shocked Super League this season, winning 12 of their last 13 games in all competitions and setting up the chance to reach their first Challenge Cup final since 1971.

The former NRL star, who played for North Queensland Cowboys and Brisbane Broncos, brings a wealth of experience to the Leopards, having won the NRL grand final in 2015 and the 2016 World Club Challenge.

Now, the Australian has a different task at hand as he aims to continue Leigh’s stunning run with a Wembley appearance at stake, and he always believed his side could do the unthinkable.

Asiata told the PA news agency: “I said it at the beginning of the year that I trust this group and we are going to do something special this year.

“We are doing that at the moment and now we have to just keep going. Coming here, I did not understand why I was coming here but it was a door that God opened for me and since I’ve been here it’s been nothing but great things so I’m very happy.

“This year is all about making history and this is another opportunity to do that.”

Asiata has been one of Super League’s standout performers this season, leading the way for the most carries with 441, but he has also received help from a number of other key players such as Tom Briscoe and top try-scorer Josh Charnley.

The skipper hailed the team effort which has seen Leigh climb to second in the league and helped them recently come from 12 points down to beat Salford away 24-22 for the first time since 1981.

He continued: “As a group we set some goals in the beginning of the year but we have created a bunch that believe in each other’s ability to do the job.

“No matter where you are on the field, no matter how tired you can be, there is going to be someone else just as tired as you and we’ve built a very solid foundation for the new guys to jump on board.

If you look at the beginning of the year, nobody gave us a chance to do anything and that's the good thing about our game

“It’s just been awesome to see the boys achieve what they have done so far and we have a coach that is leading the way and helping us do that.”

Leopards earned a 20-12 victory over Saints in their meeting earlier in the season and sit two places above their semi-final opponents in the league.

Despite their superiority this season, Asiata insists Leigh have no mental advantage over St Helens and believes Saints are still the favourites heading into the game at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

He said: “It’s a whole different ball game when it comes to semi-final footy. It’s going to be a whole different Saints team that we are playing.

“They have been there and done that and are world champions for a reason but I am excited for the challenge because if you want to be the best you have to beat the best.

“I think Saints will be favourites which I don’t mind being the underdogs. If you look at the beginning of the year, nobody gave us a chance to do anything and that’s the good thing about our game.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox