Leigh Centurions are delighted to confirm that Edwin Ipape has signed a new three-year contract with the Club up until the end of 2025.
Papua New Guinea international hooker Ipape, 25, has been in outstanding form for the Centurions this season since arriving in February, earning Heritage Number HN#1536 and scoring six tries in 14 games.
He capped a stand-out performance by winning the Ray French Trophy as Man of the Match in Leigh Centurions’ victory in the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final at Tottenham Hotspur last month.
Leigh Centurions owner Derek Beaumont explained the rationale behind this important and exciting signing for the club and the key roles played by head of rugby Chris Chester and head coach Adrian Lam.
Mr Beaumont said: “Since the difficult season of 2018 when we failed to make the playoffs and the club became significantly exposed, I stuck to a rebuilding programme that was always protecting the longer-term future exposure of the club by limiting contracts to a single season.
“This obviously had its limitations but was successful in getting us to where we are now. I now have the confidence in Chris and Adrian, the players and support staff that this club can achieve both mine and its goals in the near future.
“When bringing Chris and Adrian on board it was always based on a three-to-five-year plan. That was what sold the club to them and attracted them on board. I fully believe in them and am therefore backing them by securing longer term deals to achieve what we want to achieve, and Edwin is a big part of that.
“I am not taking anything for granted concerning this year. I am simply hell bent committed to getting into Super League with a team that can compete at the top end of Super League. If it doesn’t materialise this year, we will have a great team again next year to keep at it.
“Ultimately it boils down to money. It’s been a big investment for me this year and could be bigger next year if we don’t make it, but I have the money and am prepared to use it to get where our great club deserves to be.
“Seeing crowds grow over 4,000 is highly motivating to me and helps greatly so I hope our fans will continue coming and bringing their friends to watch the great rugby our team is playing.
“I would like to thank Edwin for entrusting his next three years with us despite the strong external interest, especially when it’s far from a given, we will be where he wants and was offered to play next year in Super League. It’s a great time to be a Leigh Centurions fan and it’s going to get greater!”
Head coach Adrian Lam said: “I am very pleased for the club, Edwin and for myself as coach, as he has been outstanding this year, and certainly has been a revelation in the Betfred Championship.
“He was given an opportunity after the season had started and for him to travel over here and do what he’s done is unbelievable. It is probably one of the greatest stories in Rugby League this year across the world.
“I chased him hard at the start of the season, as I knew what he could do. He has come through as a half back at Lae Snax Tigers in Papua New Guinea and has worked his way through the grassroots system over there.
“I have always wanted to have him and get him under my wing to coach him into the player he is now.
“There was a lot of interest in him from Super League clubs and it was a priority of ours to get him signed up, which shows the indication of where we want to be in the future.
“Securing players like Edwin Ipape in our side now and for the long-term certainly puts us in a great position.”
Edwin Ipape said: “I’m really happy to get the deal over the line. We’ve been in talks for the last couple of weeks, but we’ve finally come to an agreement. I’ve signed on for the next three years and I couldn’t be happier.
“The club gave me the opportunity to come play my rugby in this country and has helped get the best out of me. Under the leadership and coaching of both Adrian Lam and Chris Chester, this is definitely the right club for me to grow as a person and a player.
“To sign a three-year deal and get the security that comes with that is important for me. I want to find somewhere I can make a home and focus on my rugby – this contract allows me to do that.
“When you’re involved in professional sports, you have to always find room for improvement. I feel that I can still improve, and I’ve got a few more gears to go through – I’m excited to see how good I can get.
“The fans were a massive factor in my decision to re-sign. They really accepted me as one of their own straight away. Their support during games helps to give me that extra boost to give 110% week in and week out. You can feel their support all the time – whether it’s on the pitch or off it – they’re amazing.
“The aim for me is to win every game we play. I would love to win the Challenge Cup for the club and get promoted to Super League. We want to make an impact there and challenge for the title within the next few years. On a personal note, I just want to continue to play great rugby and bring that consistently. I just want to do the best I can.”
Leigh Centurions head of rugby Chris Chester said: “This is a massive statement and a positive move not only for the club but the town. Everywhere I go people ask me: ‘When are you going to sign Edwin?’
“He is so well thought of by the playing and coaching staff, by the supporters, and by everyone he has met in the town as well.
“When Edwin comes off the bench it lifts the whole stadium. He is such an exciting talent and through his performances had attracted interest from the NRL and Super League. But his agent told me Edwin had said he didn’t want him to speak to any other club but Leigh.”
Mr Chester added that Ipape’s signing confirms the club’s strategy. He explained: “As you look to the future you want to build a group and a team around young players.
“Edwin has been a revelation since stepping off the plane and making his debut at York a couple of days later.
“He made enormous sacrifices to move over here, leaving family behind in PNG and it was a massive gamble for him. But now he can make plans. We’ve been good for Edwin, and he’s been good for us, so it was a no-brainer, and we are all delighted the deal is done.”
Chris Chester also thanked Compassion in Action; a charity based in Leigh for their assistance in helping Edwin settle in. “CEO Pam Gilligan and her colleagues at this wonderful charity have been absolutely superb and we can’t thank them enough,” he said. “They have helped Edwin in many ways and are currently enrolling him on courses to further his education.
“I’d also like to thank Ste Openshaw for his tireless work in helping Edwin and the club negotiate the visa and work permit application process which made this possible.”
Edwin Ipape is sponsored by Leigh Centurions Fans.