Australian Super League back in court

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The Independent Online
Rugby League

The fixture that will decide the future of the game in Australia kicked off in the Federal Court in Sydney yesterday.

Rupert Murdoch's Super League organisation is challenging the validity of the loyalty agreements which the Australian claims bind eight clubs which want to leave and join the new body.

The outcome of the case will decide whether Super League will be able to go ahead as planned in March - at the same time as the launch of a parallel competition in Europe.

Although Murdoch's News Limited has already issued fixtures and said that it will press ahead regardless of the court's ruling, it is doubtful whether they can raise the numbers for a meaningful competition if the case goes against them.

The winners of the last Winfield Cup on Sunday, the Sydney Bulldogs, are one of the clubs that wants to enlist with Murdoch, but the case is expected to last up to three months.

The open warfare between the two sides in the argument has had a dramatic effect on the Halifax Centenary World Cup in Britain next month, with Australia naming a squad devoid of any Super League players, even those generally acknowledged to be among the world's best.

That is one part of the argument that the ARL have won, however, as the League in Britain has conceded that the squad Australia has named will be the one that comes to the tournament, dismissing talk of injunctions as unrealistic.

Also forced reluctantly to accept the inevitable is Mike McClennan, the Tongan coach, who feels that two of his best players, Jim Dymock and John Hopoate, have had their arms twisted into representing Australia instead. McClennan is understandably furious that the two players were told they would not later be able to represent Australia if they opted for Tonga in the tournament.

"That is outside the spirit of the World Cup and comes hard from a country with an embarrassment of player numbers," he said.

The England coach, Phil Larder, will today name his 25-man squad, with Shaun Edwards as captain and likely call-ups for the Widnes utility forward, Steve McCurrie, Wigan's Barrie-Jon Mather and Tony Smith of Castleford.

One definite addition to the Wembley line-up for the opener against Australia on 7 October is Diana Ross, who will sing before the match.

n Andre Stoop, the South Africa full-back, has been forced to pull out of the World Cup after suffering a knee injury while playing for Keighley on Sunday.