Coley leaves Wigan with Red faces

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The Independent Online

With all due deference to Iestyn Harris's debut for Bradford against Wakefield this evening, there has been a signing - or rather a re-signing - this week that could be of equal significance.

With all due deference to Iestyn Harris's debut for Bradford against Wakefield this evening, there has been a signing - or rather a re-signing - this week that could be of equal significance.

Andy Coley is not a household name of Harris dimensions, but he is a forward good enough to be a contender for a place in Great Britain's squad for the Tri-Nations at the end of the season.

He is, by some distance, Salford's best player, and he is known to have attracted the attention of a number of bigger clubs as his contract nears its end. He is, in fact, the sort of player that Salford and clubs like them routinely expect to lose.

For him to sign a new three-year contract is therefore a major boost for the Reds. It helps that they have already done just about enough to ensure their survival in Super League, but Coley could have taken his pick of clubs with loftier ambitions and deeper pockets, with Wigan likely to have been at the front of the queue come the 1 September deadline.

Salford's director of rugby, Steve Simms, was, however, always confident of retaining a forward who is equally effective in the front or second row. "He knows how far we have progressed at this club and how much further we intend to progress,'' he said.

That progress took a small stutter last week when the Australian forward from Carcassonne, Duncan Mac-Gillivray, decided to join Wakefield instead of the Reds. Coley's retention far outweighs that disappointment and there is an extra irony in the fact that his first game following his re-signing is against Wigan.

Wigan's need for front-row reinforcements is obvious. With Quentin Pongia retired and Danny Sculthorpe and Terry O'Connor injured, they are down to one fit prop. Craig Smith has shouldered the extra work with enthusiasm, but the side are bound to struggle up front at times during the rest of the season. Next year, Jerry Seu Seu is due to arrive from New Zealand Warriors and Luke Davico from Canberra but Wigan will require at least one more prop.

Salford are not accustomed to getting envious glances from their more powerful Lancashire neighbours, but they might get some at The Willows this afternoon if Coley has the sort of game that underlines the job that he could have done for Wigan.

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