Botham eyes professional career in third sport

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The Independent Online

The bearer of one of Britain's most famous sporting surnames could be set to make his mark on a third game.

Liam Botham, who has already shone at cricket and rugby union, could add rugby league to his CV if a club responds to the news that he wants to try his hand at a new code. Super League clubs have been circulated about Botham's availability now that his three year contract at Newcastle has expired.

"Quite a lot of what he does best would suit rugby league," said Simon Cohen of the player's representatives, James Chapman & Co, yesterday. "Any strong runner in union stands a chance in league and his goal-kicking percentage is even better than Jonny Wilkinson's."

Botham played county cricket for Durham in 1996 and represented England A at union three years ago, but is ready for a challenge which could make him the first sportsman to play three games professionally.

"The Newcastle lads watch a lot of league, so he knows what is involved," said Cohen. Botham's father, Ian, was another who mixed and matched his sports, playing football for Scunthorpe alongside his rather more illustrious cricket career.

Two rugby union clubs, Leeds and London Irish, are showing interest in the 25-year-old winger, but Cohen says he has also spoken to several in Super League - and not merely, he insists, as a way of inflating his value in union.

"We don't need to do that sort of thing to drive his price up," Cohen said. "His interest in playing league is genuine."

Widnes are one Super League club who are thought to be interested, but they fear that he would be out of their price range.

The Widnes coach, Neil Kelly, has warned several players that they face being dropped for Sunday's match against Huddersfield, after a series of sub-standard performances culminating in a 40-2 defeat at Castleford on Sunday.

"Certain people have been given enough chances," said Kelly, who has, in Stuart Spruce, Marvin Golden and Deon Bird, three experienced players ready to return from injury this weekend.