Castleford employ Hanley to help fight relegation

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The Independent Online

Ellery Hanley is back in rugby league after a gap of more than four years - as coaching consultant to Super League's bottom club, Castleford.

The former Great Britain captain and coach was named yesterday as part of the management team that the Tigers hope will guide them to safety, with Gary Mercer, who has been caretaker-coach since the sacking of Graham Steadman, also staying on. Both have contracts for the rest of this season and have already begun to work together to prepare for Sunday's crunch game against Salford.

"I have always been under pressure as a player and a coach and pressure does not faze me in the slightest," Hanley said. "The biggest challenge is coming on Sunday. I've seen Castleford this season and they have some deficiencies which need to be rectified very quickly. It's all about survival and all about winning our games each weekend."

Mercer, who played with Hanley at Leeds, said: "Ellery is someone I've always respected and I'm happy that it has all worked out."

Hanley, now aged 43, was the peerless British player of his generation, winning 36 caps, leading Wigan to unprecedented success and also playing for Bradford and Leeds. He coached Great Britain in 1994, the year he retired as a player, and led St Helens to the Super League title in his one season with them in 1999.

He was sacked at the start of the following season when the club claimed that he was in breach of his contract by failing to attend the launch of the competition. Since then, he has been involved in rugby union as a defensive coach with England, Bath and Bristol and has pursued his other sporting interests of tennis and squash.

Castleford have also confirmed the signing of the Kiwi international utility player, Motu Tony, who is joining them for the rest of this season with an option for next.

Tony, who has played full-back, half-back and hooker for his country, has been released by the New Zealand Warriors and is expected in the country in time for next weekend's match at London Broncos.

"He is a current New Zealand international, only 22, with a great reputation in the National Rugby League," said the Castleford chief executive, Richard Wright. "He can be the catalyst to change our season around."

Wigan have denied rumours that their Kiwi prop, Quentin Pongia, is ill. "He is available and will be playing this weekend," said Denis Betts, who is standing in for Mike Gregory whilst he has treatment for a bacterial infection in America.

The Whitehaven centre, Brett McDermott, has been suspended for one match for the reckless use of a forearm.

The Australian Test captain, Darren Lockyer, is out of the Queensland side to play New South Wales next Wednesday with a cracked rib.