Leigh Centurions can confirm that Lee Smith has been released from his contract by mutual consent. The 30-year-old former England international will now become a free agent.
Lee joined Leigh Centurions early in the 2016 campaign and made a big contribution, scoring 12 tries and kicking 36 goals in 23 games.
His experience, versatility and goal-kicking ability made him a valued member of the squad during a momentous season for the Club in which he also passed the notable personal career milestone of 100 tries.
Leigh Centurions Head Coach Neil Jukes said: “Firstly it’s important to understand the massive role that Lee played in our success last year.
“He came to the Club at a crucial time when the squad was depleted and he went on to play a big role in us winning the league again and getting to the Middle 8s.
“As a coach and as a Club we are indebted to Lee for his contribution last season. He came in and immediately provided experience, versatility and solidity across a number of positions and helped us pull everything together.
“He’s also a very good goal-kicker and he came up with some big performances.
“This year unfortunately things haven’t worked out for Lee in pre season and we have mutually agreed a compromise. Lee is a cracking lad, respectful, well mannered and a gentleman and he leaves with no hard feelings either way. Lee and his family will always be welcome at Leigh Centurions in the future.”
Leigh Centurions Owner Derek Beaumont said: “Professional Rugby League whilst a sport is also a business and unfortunately that means at times difficult decisions are made.
“I am a great believer in being honest with people and that is a trait Neil Jukes has. Lee is a top quality Rugby League player proven at the highest level with international honours. He has achieved everything in the game and it has been a privilege to have had him represent our Club.
“He was pivotal in our promotion to Super League with his presence both on and off the field. I hope that is a fond memory of his career so far.
“In the end every player wants to play every game and unfortunately with a difficult pre season for Lee it has left him where Neil feels it would be difficult for him to figure in his plans. It is therefore only fair to enable him to seek the opportunity to play at the highest level he can.
“Lee has been the consummate professional throughout this and has been around the game long enough to understand the situation. He leaves us on amicable terms, which is how all high-end professional players want to part company. It is important to me and this Club that players of his calibre speak highly of us as they are influential in the game.
“I wish Lee the best of luck and hope he continues in the game as he still has a lot to offer it. I also hope to welcome him back to the Club as my guest in the future whenever he wishes to attend.”
Lee Smith said: “I just want to start by thanking everyone at Leigh Centurions for having me over the last 12 months. I’ve really enjoyed myself at a club I believe is destined for the top.
“After meeting Derek and Neil for the first time and hearing their ambitions for the club going forward, it made the decision to join so much easier.
“Ultimately the goal from the start was to get promoted and after a rollercoaster of a year, and in playing a small part in it, we as a club achieved that. It’s something I will hold high in the things I’ve achieved within the game.
“I want to wish Derek, the coaching staff and all the players all the very best for the coming season and I’m sure it will be a enjoyable year for the club back in the Super League.”
Lee Smith made his Leeds debut in 2005 and went on to play 156 games for the Rhinos, scoring 68 tries and kicking 35 goals.
He proved his versatility by playing for the Rhinos in three successive Super League Grand Final victories and won the Harry Sunderland Trophy in 2008.
He made eight appearances for England and played for his country in the 2008 World Cup and 2009 Four Nations tournament.
Lee later played 41 games for Wakefield Trinity and had spells in rugby union with London Wasps and Newcastle Falcons before joining the Centurions following a short spell at Hull FC.