Football: Wigan pay for financial reality: Dave Hadfield previews rugby league's Charity Shield

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The Independent Online
THE absence of three familiar faces from the Wigan side to meet St Helens in the Charity Shield at Gateshead tomorrow is a sign that reality has caught up with the one club that looked capable of outrunning it.

Wigan will be without Andy Gregory, Gene Miles and Andy Platt; not because they had any wish to lose them, but because they could not afford them.

Gregory has gone to Leeds, after returning early from the Great Britain tour to be told that he could not expect the generous terms he received last season.

Miles named his price for a second year and was told that it was too high, and Platt has rejected a series of offers of a new contract and currently stands in limbo.

It is not a situation which delights the Wigan coach, John Monie, who told his directors at the end of last season that he did not want any new players, merely for the old ones to be retained.

Since returning from Australia himself, Monie has appealed to the new Wigan chairman, Jack Robinson, for Miles to be re- signed. 'Like Andy, he was a player who provided the class in our team. But every club has its limits, even on average crowds of 15,000. It makes you wonder how clubs on two to three thousand manage.'

Having lost his scrum-half and his strong man in the back line, Monie would be doubly loathe to bid farewell to Platt, his most inspirational forward.

'He has done the hardest thing in the game - convincing Australians that he is the best blind-side prop in the world,' Monie said. 'He's still working really hard in the gym but he's not available for me to select.'

Robinson made an improved offer to Platt on Thursday night. Although that failed to satisfy the player, he remains hopeful of keeping him.

As a principle, he is convinced that setting strict limits is the correct course of action and that the game will eventually be grateful for Wigan's stand. Often accused of being the prime movers in the game's inflationary spiral, they are now trying to apply pressure in the opposite direction.

'We are thinking of ourselves first, but we will be helping the whole of the league by bringing in sound financial management,' he said.

'Our income is tremendous but our costs are rising all the time. We had 14 players on tour this summer, which brought great prestige to the club, but it also brought great expense, because they were all guaranteed bonuses in their contracts.'

Robinson says there is too much 'doom and gloom' over the prospect of starting the season without three leading players - plus a string of others with injuries hanging over from the tour.

St Helens may well exploit that comparative disarray tomorrow and Robinson concedes: 'We are going to be under pressure early on.

'I'm hopeful, though, that some of our young players will blossom.'

Mick Cassidy, who came on for Martin Dermott and was man of the match in the Locker Cup match against Warrington last week, carries on at hooker, and Barrie-Jon Mather, Andy Farrell and Jason Robinson - all from last year's all-conquering reserve side - are also in the squad.

St Helens: Veivers; Hunte, Connolly, Ropati, Sullivan; Griffiths, O'Donnell; Neil, Dwyer, Ward, Harrison, Mann, Cooper. Substitutes: Riley, Forber.

Wigan: Hampson; Myers, Bell, Lydon, Offiah; Botica, Crompton; Lucas, Cassidy, Skerrett, Betts, McGinty, Clarke. Substitutes: Panapa, Mather.

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