Micky Higham returned to his roots in 2015 with the ambition of returning to the Super League
The setting was the Leigh Sports Village, the plush base of the newly-promoted Centurions and a stone’s throw from where Higham grew up.
As Neil Jukes’ side gear up for their return to the big time, ambition pulses around the club louder than ever before.
Higham, 36, began his career at Leigh but left in 2000 and missed the years of struggle that followed their only previous Super League campaign in 2005.
In May 2015, the veteran hooker went back home to a club in the second division, albeit one with ambition coursing through their veins.
It was some leap of faith.
Higham had played for St Helens, Wigan and Warrington and won major trophies along the way.
He still had much to do in the game but home was where the heart was.
“Leaving Warrington was tough but once I knew that Leigh had that ambition to get back into Super League, it was something I couldn’t turn down,” said Higham.
The 2017 Super League campaign gets underway this weekend
"Being a Leigh boy who grew up 200 metres down the road, I would watch games as a kid at the old Hilton Park and run onto the field afterwards to collect the players’ tie-ups.
“I dreamed of being out there myself one day and made my debut for the club as a youngster but didn’t quite make it into Super League.
“I moved onto other clubs but now I’m back here, albeit the wrong side of 30, and ready to take this opportunity with both hands.
“It’s great to be back in Super League because it’s a rugby-mad area and the whole town is buzzing right now.”
Hilton Park has long since been demolished and the Sports Village has become an apt symbol of the club’s upward mobility.
It is the daring ambition of owner Derek Beaumont, though, which has fuelled Leigh’s renaissance.
The local businessman has battled and won an addiction to cocaine, fought depression and relaunched a business that is now making profits measured in millions.
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Often seen as loud, brash and outspoken, Beaumont is estimated to have invested around £2million into the club.
Higham, whose team open their campaign at Castleford tomorrow, won the Championship Player of the Year award during last season’s promotion campaign.
He said: “People have their opinions on Derek but he’s put a lot of his hard-earned money into the club to get us where we are now.
“Yes, he’s outspoken at times, but why not? He loves Leigh and always backs the players. Without being over-confident, we want to aim high this season.”
Tonight’s season-opener sees St Helens host old adversaries Leeds with both clubs under pressure to deliver this year.
The Rhinos flirted with relegation last season after finishing in the bottom four while Saints again finished empty-handed in Keiron Cunningham’s second year in charge.
Legendary former favourite Cunningham, who will be without injured scrum-half Matty Smith for the opening weeks of the season, said: “I’d give up everything I achieved as a player in an absolute heartbeat for this club to succeed now.
Micky Higham has won major trophies during his years with St Helens, Wigan and Warrington
“This is undoubtedly the best group of players I’ve ever worked with, so it’s time to perform.”
Leeds could give a debut to 6ft 5ins forward Jack Ormondroyd, the son of former Bradford, Aston Villa and Leicester striker Ian Ormondroyd.
The 25-year-old has arrived from part-timers Featherstone and said: “I remember going to Wembley to watch my dad play for Bradford in a play-off final, so I always wanted to be a professional sportsman.
“Playing there in a Challenge Cup final for Leeds would be a dream come true.”
Castleford have made huge strides in recent seasons under Daryl Powell and are seen as dark horses after an impressive recruitment drive which included the signing of Zak Hardaker from Leeds.
Wigan are bolstered by the return of Joe Burgess and Thomas Leuluai, so they will take all the stopping as they aim to retain their crown.
They might finish top of the table, but Warrington, defeated in last season’s Grand Final, have signed master craftsman Kevin Brown from Widnes.
That encourages hope that it could finally be the Wolves’ year as they bid to become the champions for the first time since 1955 come the Old Trafford title decider in October.