Good weather key for Leigh

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The Independent Online

29 July 2000

29 July 2000

Leigh will be scanning the skies above Gigg Lane with some anxiety today, given the meteorological history of their meetings with Dewsbury this season.

The Northern Ford Premiership Grand Final could attract a bigger crowd than any Super League game this weekend with the exception of Bradford v Leeds, but past experience suggests that its outcome could depend on whether Bury is in the path of any storms raging across the north of England.

"The three times we have beaten them on a dry track we have scored over 20 points against them," said the Leigh coach, Paul Terzis. "The pitch was under water when we lost to them in the final of the Trans Pennine Cup, so we'll be checking that the local fire brigade haven't had their hoses on the job."

Leigh's three victories give them the psychological advantage over their Yorkshire opponents, but the Dewsbury coach, Neil Kelly, believes that his side is far better prepared than last year, when they lost to Hunslet in the Grand Final.

"It was all a bit much for us last year, but I think we'll take it more in our stride this time," said Kelly, who has added Andrew Spink, Billy Kershaw and Alex Godfrey to the squad who beat Keighley so convincingly last week.

Terzis has Simon Baldwin back from suspension, but will not make any other changes in the side that accounted for Oldham.

No one who has followed the NFP play-offs - in person or via Yorkshire TV's weekly magazine programme - will be unaware of the passion and commitment that has already gone into the business end of the season.

The NFP has emerged as a competition that is rich in character and emotion, but there are also players that are involved today who have the ability to compete at a higher level.

One such is the Leigh hooker, Mick Higham, still only 19 but linked with an eventual move to a Super League club. "I've heard a lot of rumours but it's mainly speculation," said Higham, whose speed from dummy-half will be a major part of Leigh's game plan. "I want to play in Super League, but my ideal would be to play there with Leigh."

Whether he will ever get that chance depends not just on winning today, but on the labyrinthine and often contradictory counsels of the game's administrators. It can only help both teams, however, to think that there is a prospect, edged around with doubts though it may be, of playing in Super League next season.

For Dewsbury to preserve that dream, they need their midfield triangle of Damien Ball, Richard Agar and Barry Eaton to seize the initiative - that or a sudden downpour at about 2 o'clock.