Leigh's big belief as town heads to Wembley for first Challenge Cup Final in 52 years

It's the biggest thing to happen to Leigh in 52 years. Everywhere you go in this rugby mad town there's excitement and leopard print after the Leigh Leopards reached the Challenge Cup final for the first time since 1971.

The huge crowd that turned up to send off the squad to Wembley gives as sense of how 'cup fever' has spread far and wide.

One lifelong Leigh fan, dressed in leopard print bucket hat explains the importance of Saturday's final saying: "We've always been a rugby town. The town is going to be empty. If they're not watching the final on the telly or in the pub then everyone else is in London."

Leigh Leopards fans excited for the Challenge Cup final Credit: ITV Granada

Derek Beaumont is the club's owner. A charismatic figure, he took the decision to change the club's name from Leigh Centurions to Leigh Leopards last year.

It was a controversially move that upset some supporters at first. But what followed is success on the pitch and plenty of leopard print off it as fans embrace the change.

He says: "This is what it's all about - the fans. This is what inspires the lads when they're tired they find that little bit extra because they know how much it means to everyone in town."

Thousands of Leigh's supporters will follow their heroes down to London to be part of history and see their heroes face Hull KR in rugby league's oldest cup competition.

Leigh Leopard's player Zak Hardaker says: "If you spend five minutes in the town you realise how special it is. To give them a trip to Wembley after 50 years will be pretty special and I think Leigh will be pretty empty come Saturday."

Leigh were promoted to Super League last season for the fourth time in their history. Every other promotion as been followed by relegation, but not this year.

This year Leigh are defying expectations to be challenging for the biggest prizes in rugby league - the Super League and Challenge Cup.

If their team of 2023 can match the achievement of the one from 1971, then the players will write themselves into the history of the cup, the club and the town.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...