It’s Street Of Origin time on Saturday when local rivals Leigh Miners and Leigh East lock horns in the Micky Higham testimonial game, Kick off 2pm at Twist Lane. Admission to the game is £5 for adults and £2.50 for children and concessions, with it being the first meeting between the two clubs in over two years it is sure to be a Christmas cracker!
Testimonial man Micky Higham is exited like many other about this “Street Of Origin” clash, with Micky saying “I’m Really looking forward to it, My two amateur clubs and great rivals, both with great history playing against each other, Hearing the feedback already lots of people are excited about it like I am myself. I’m going to play about a 20 minute period for each team, Preferably back end of each half so all the big hits and cheap shots are gone haha….”
On his time with both clubs Higham explained “I started as a kid for Leigh Rangers ( back in the old days ) then moved to Leigh East for the majority of my young amateur career, before moving to Leigh Miners Rangers for the last year of u18’s. I Really enjoyed my time at both clubs and made a lot of friends along with meeting some great dedicated people which is what makes the amateur game exist.”
Looking back at his career so far, Micky has many highlights which include making his debut for Leigh Centurions, Making his debut in super league with saints and winning a grand final. Making his Great Britain debut against New Zealand and representing England in the World Cup, The 3 challenge cup wins for Warrington and winning the player of the year and supporters player of the year 2013.
Speaking about his testimonial so far Micky said “I have really enjoyed the testimonial, it’s been hard work but it has been good, I’ve had a lot of support and well wishers and the events have been busy and really enjoyable especially the ladies night at the miners, haha!”
And finally talking about his plans for next year and the future Higham said “I just want to keep the form I’ve been showing for the last few years into this season and hopefully a few more seasons to come! Myself and Paul Wood run a gym/PT business Tryfitnesstraining in Leigh so I hope that will take off. I’m also a qualified teacher now so maybe some form of teaching in the future and I’ve not ruled out coaching as well, as I still enjoy coaching when I get the chance.”
Miners go into Saturday’s Street Of Origin clash having got together for the last two Wednesday’s to prepare for what they are treating as a massive game having not played against Leigh East for over two years and with not knowing when the two rivals will meet again with there being two divisions separating them, Miners will certainly be going all out to get the victory and take the local bragging rights. The lads know they will be in for a tough battle against a fired up Leigh East side and there will be certainly no just turning up thinking the game is won, as they want to put in a strong performance and finish the year with a good win.
Coaches Allan Coleman & Paul Whitworth will have virtually a fully fit squad to choose from at the weekend, with only Andrew Groves and Mathew Meaden unavailable from the squad that finished the season. New signings Brad Hargreaves and Harry Gagen will make their first appearance for the club along with prop Adam Bibey who is raring to go after missing last season due to a ruptured bicep picked up in training.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s game coach Allan Coleman said “This game is long overdue and it is something we are looking at for the future,The town needs a derby game, we need that crowd and atmosphere at least once a year and I think it will be a battle, a very tough and physical game. They have some big fellas in the middle but we are a good side and on our day the best, but we will certainly need to be at our best.It is great we can do something for Micky, he is a local lad who has done everything in the game, let’s hope they turn out in there hundreds to support Micky.”
Coleman also added “This game is certainly getting us ready for pre season which is again going to be tough this year with Saturday morning sessions at the Green Hill, Pennington Flash, Borsdane Woods and Formby beach, we have also got an Army camp booked for end of January along with having booked the athletic track at LSV.”
Miners joint coach Paul Whitworth is also happy to be playing against Leigh East again, with Whitworth saying “Its great to see the fixture back between the two clubs and especially as it gives the people of Leigh the opportunity to support Micky Higham in his well deserved testimonial. A popular Leigh lad who has represented both local Amateur Clubs and his home town professionally before moving on to Super league to achieve almost every accolade in the game, playing for his Country, winning Grand Finals & Challenge Cups and also appearing in the World Club Challenge.”
“It will be a challenge and also a bit of nostalgia going back to play in the depths of winter but I think most will agree the town’s rugby is poorer without this derby, It’s the game the coaches and fans want to experience and your sure to see an extra percentage out of the players. We’ve held the bragging rights for a couple of years but Leigh East will be looking to change that this weekend. Paul Wingfield since leaving us to join East has steadied their ship, recruiting well and should make some good progress in the next season. Leigh East look strong down the middle so the conditions will suit them and with them being marshalled by Adam Holland it should be a close game and a good spectacle. We’ve only been able to get a couple of sessions in but the game will give us a early chance to introduce a couple of new faces as we build for another season in the Premier Division. Hopefully the weather will be kind to us so can produce a good game and get a good crowd on to support Micky and his chosen Charity.”
Looking towards Pre-Season Paul added “We have only just put the finishing touches to what will be a tough pre-season schedule starting at the beginning of January. We’ll be using the facilities at Leigh Harriers for our Strength, Speed and Conditioning Sessions along with the usual Saturday morning sessions at various locations such as Formby Beach with field work being covered at Lowton High School. This year we will be putting the lads through a Military & Outdoor Conditioning Weekend at the end of January, we’ve also arranged for some specific sessions to be ran by professional coaches. Recruitment has been good but not extensive as we’ve got a huge amount of faith in the lads we have and also feel we have some promising young players ready to make the step up. We have managed to strengthen in a couple of areas and we have the return of Lee Gittins & Shaun Dowie to look forward to.”
“The reserves will look to build on last season with the introduction of Chris Snape as coach while the Under 18s are building a formidable squad under new coaches of Darryl Appleby and Mick Blakeley. Not forgetting the Ladies who have recruited Cliff Tamou as coach as they continue to build not only their own team but also working with the Junior Section to re-introduce a girls section.”
LEIGH MINERS SQUAD
Leigh East will be coming over the canal in a confident mood after coming strong in the second half of last season, East started the season poorly before coming strong with the introduction of new coach Paul Wingfield who guided them into the playoffs, only to lose in the semi final against a good Pilkington Recs side. The Ledgard Avenue outfit are looking forward to pushing on again next year and gain promotion to Division One but before that they will be coming to Twist Lane on Saturday to do a job on the Miners.
Red and Black coach Paul Wingfield who started the year coaching Miners u18s before moving across the canal mid season said of his switch to Leigh East “Since taking over mid-way through last season, I have to admit that it’s been a steep learning curve. I’ve definitely had more highs than lows since taking over and as a coaching team we had an immediate impact (me, Martin Roden and Lee Rowley).”
“The results quickly went our way, which was obviously very encouraging and helpful, and as I’d watched East a few times at the start of last season, I just thought they lacked a bit of confidence and a bit of direction. So we just kept it simple, tightened up on a few areas in training and on match day and the lads really responded. Dean Balmer and our kid (Craig Wingfield ) were also part of the new set up and their input was greatly valued. They both worked exceptionally hard to keep the team going on and off the pitch.”
“But from struggling to get a team together and fighting relegation we ended the season with nearly 30 open age players training every week and made the play offs. All in all. I was impressed and happy with my first season in charge and I think everybody was really pleased with the effort and commitment shown by everyone towards the end of last season.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game Paul added “Derby’s in Leigh are something that in recent years, we’ve all missed out on. There’s nothing like an East v Miners big smash!! And although for this game both sides haven’t had much time to prepare, I still think both teams will want to put in a good performance and at the very least, players will want to win their individual battles with their opposite number!”
“Hopefully we’ll get a good crowd on for Micky, as I think he deserves it, and everybody can have a great Saturday afternoon pre Christmas. Micky is a great example of someone that has come through the ranks, mixed exceptional ability and potential with hard graft and most definitely took his chances. I just think that its fantastic that we can celebrate with him during his testimonial year and hopefully raise a few quid for him as well.”
Looking towards the 2015 season Wingfield said “We just want to build on the foundations that we laid this year. We have a very strong bond within the group and with a few additions I think we can compete both at home and away next year. There’s no doubt that it’s going to be tough but we are all enjoying it and we all want to get Leigh East back to where it belongs!! The Premier Division!! As quickly as possible.”
Former Twist Lane favourite and current Leigh East captain Dean Balmer said of his time at Ledgard Avenue “Since I moved to leigh east nearly 3 years ago it as been an up and down few years with dropping down the leagues and losing a few players but for me personally it as been a different challenge with helping the young lads out and trying to get Leigh East back where they belong in the top flight, with Me and my family having really enjoyed it here at East.”
On playing against his old club Deano added “It’s always great to play in the big Leigh derby,I’ve played in a few all the years I’ve been playing they are the games you look forward to and put that bit extra effort in to win, so me and the lads will be looking forward to it as well as the miners boys so it should be a good battle.”
“The game is also for a great cause, I’ve known Micky for years and I had the privilege of playing a couple of games with him in our younger days,he has gone on to do brilliant things in rugby league playing firstly for his hometown and moving on playing super league with the top teams as well as representing his country on numerous occasions, it just goes to show what you can get from the game if you put in the effort Micky did, one of the best hookers to grace the British game so if anyone deserves a testimonial year it’s the true leyther in Micky.”
Looking towards next year Balmer commented “I said it last year that promotion is our main aim, last year we had an up and down season with different coaches coming in and out in which all should be thanked for their time and effort Dave Radley, Alan Hadcroft and Chris Snape all gave their time up which was appreciated. Big thanks go also to Paul Wingfield who came in and turned things around with the help of Lee Rowley and Martin Roden we went on a great run to just miss out on a place in the play off final after losing to Pilkington Recs who are a very strong side in the semi final.”
“Paul has set the target next year and that is promotion and me and the lads back it all the way and will be giving our all to fulfill our aim and get East back where they belong in the Premier Division playing big derby games against Miners.”
LEIGH EAST SQUAD
NO SQUAD GIVEN