Rugby League: Eagles tell Watson to toe line

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The Independent Online
DAVE WATSON is having to work his way back into favour after being left out of Sheffield Eagles' first team as a disciplinary measure.

It is understood that Watson, who has a history of testing his various coaches' patience, missed a training session last week and was left out of the side that won at Salford.

"It's an internal matter," said the Eagles coach, John Kear. "He's had his wrists slapped and I'm confident he will now toe the line. If not, he'll be out."

The New Zealand international, outstanding for Sheffield in their Challenge Cup final victory three weeks ago, has played twice in the reserves and has put himself in contention for one of the substitute berths against Leeds today.

But, in the continuing absence of DIY accident victim Mark Aston, Kear is sticking with Gareth Stephens and Marcus Vassilakopoulos - both ex- Leeds players - as his starting half-backs. Two other Headingley old boys, Steve Molloy and Darren Turner, will be on the bench, possibly alongside Watson.

Kear, who says that Sheffield are confident of keeping their prop Dale Laughton despite interest from Wigan, correctly predicted that Leeds would beat Wigan last Friday and come to the Don Valley as the Super League leaders.

"Like us, they are the right sort of team to beat Wigan. When the two of us meet, it's an arm-wrestle," Kear added.

"Any game against Leeds is special for the city of Sheffield - more so when they are top of the table."

It will be special, too, for Daryl Powell, Sheffield's first-ever signing who spent 11 years with the club and is now one of five former Eagles at Headingley. He starts his first game for Leeds today, in place of Marc Glanville, who was concussed against Wigan.

"I think I'll get a good reception, as I always had a rapport with the fans down there," Powell said. "But when you play against old team-mates it's always a bit spicy."

Another in the same situation is Salford's Josh White, who lines up against the London Broncos for the first time tomorrow.

White, who moved north this winter, has consulted a sports psychologist in an attempt to rediscover his early-season form.

In tomorrow's other Super League fixture, Halifax hope to build on last week's excellent win at Bradford when they host St Helens, for whom the Great Britain hooker, Keiron Cunningham, makes his first start of the season.

Salford Reds have signed Malcolm Alker on a full-time contract until December 2000. The 19-year-old hooker, last season's Alliance Player of the Year at The Willows, is the top try scorer in the reserves this season with seven.

One of Australia's leading administrators, Shane Richardson, has resigned from his job as the chief executive at Cronulla and is being linked with the bid for Super League status at Gateshead.