Bradford sign Withers for three more years

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The Independent Online

Bradford have given Michael Withers a second vote of confidence after his long injury lay-off by agreeing a new three-year contract with the Australian back.

Withers missed most of the last six months with a mystery groin and pelvis injury but returned to play his part in the victory over Leeds that took the Bulls into tomorrow's Grand Final. He is expected to be named at centre to face Wigan at a sold-out Old Trafford.

"I've had a disappointing season because of injury and I'm grateful for the club showing such faith in me," said the 27-year-old, who joined the Bulls from Balmain in 1999. "I've enjoyed my time here immensely and I'm looking forward to continuing at what I feel is the best club in the game."

The Bulls have added Robbie Paul and Rob Parker to the side that beat Leeds but Brian Noble is unlikely to announce his side until the evening of the match, with the Bradford coach pondering whether to bring back Paul after an absence of more than three months.

Sean Penkywicz, the hooker or scrum-half, has become the latest player to leave relegated Halifax, signing a two-year contract with their neighbours, Huddersfield.

The 17-year-old Castleford prop, Craig Huby, has been rewarded with a three-year contract by the club after impressing in a series of substitute appearances this season.

The new Australian Test captain, Darren Lockyer, has thrown his weight behind suggestions that Australia should host a World Cup in 2008, to celebrate the centenary of the code there. "The Rugby Union World Cup has been marketed very well and we have never put a lot of effort into ours," he said. "We've got to build the game around the world."

The New Zealand A coach, Gerard Stokes, has named his strongest side for the opening game of their British tour, against Cumbria at Whitehaven on Sunday. The team will be captained by Shane Beyers.

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