Bradford must think again as Bai decides to retire at 34

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The Independent Online

Marcus Bai has thrown Bradford's plans into disarray by announcing his immediate retirement, despite being under contract for next season.

The 34-year-old Papua New Guinean winger arrived last season from Leeds, scoring 12 tries in 26 appearances and recently agreed an extension to keep him at Odsal next year.

"It's a blow," admitted the Bulls coach, Steve McNamara. "Marcus has been fantastic since he's been at the club, both on and off the field. We really missed his presence when he was out for big chunks of the season.

"He scores tries, creates opportunities and does a lot of hard work, so we will miss him, but he's been honest with us. His wife has just had a baby and he just didn't feel his body would stand up to another season.

"It does leave us in a tricky situation, but we'll monitor things and see where we go from here. It's going to give someone else an opportunity and we still have a very strong squad."

The temptation to bring in a new winger will be strong, however, as Bradford have already lost Karl Pryce to rugby union as well as seeing Stanley Gene, Paul Johnson and Michael Withers, all of whom played in the back division at times last season, depart for Super League rivals.

Against that, they have signed the centre, James Evans, who played for Huddersfield and Wakefield last season, and hope to complete the transfer of Michael Platt from Castleford this week.

The Brisbane Broncos captain, Darren Lockyer, says he will play in the World Club Challenge against St Helens at Bolton on 23 February, despite undergoing a wrist operation this week.

Saints have announced that they broke even in 2005 and expect to show a healthy profit for 2006, when they swept the board of domestic honours.

The club has given two-year contracts to Matty Smith, Kyle Eastmond, centre Chris Dean and Dean McGilvray, all products of the club's youth system.

Leeds have promoted three teenagers to their full-time senior squad - Ben Kaye, Luke Burgess and Ryan Hall - who similarly all products of the Rhinos' Academy side.