Cunningham defies injury

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The Independent Online

Keiron Cunningham is set to defy medical advice to play in the Super League Grand Final on Saturday. The veteran St Helens hooker was seeing a specialist yesterday about his recurring problem with a broken bone in his hand.

Whatever the verdict, however, his coach, Mick Potter, does not expect it to stop him playing against Leeds at Old Trafford. "He's having a scan, but he'll play whatever it shows," said Potter. "He'll be offered medical advice, but Keiron's a pretty determined character."

Cunningham's insistence on playing and the recovery of Matt Gidley and Tony Puletua from minor knocks gives Potter a full-strength squad.

The same applies to Leeds, who yesterday named an unchanged 19, including Ali Lauitiiti, who missed the semi-final victory over the Catalan Dragons with flu. Also included is Brent Webb, who finished that match with a recurrence of his long-standing back injury but is expected to recover.

The Rhinos full-back has been left out of New Zealand's squad for this autumn's Four Nations in England, which includes seven uncapped players. Only one British-based player will be in the party, the Wigan half-back, Thomas Leuluai, who was a surprise success at hooker for the Kiwis in last year's World Cup triumph.

Leuluai's club are expected to confirm the Melbourne assistant, Michael McGuire, as their new coach tomorrow. McGuire's current boss, Craig Bellamy, paid tribute to his work after the Storm's victory over Parramatta in the Australian Grand Final on Sunday, but sounded resigned to losing him to Wigan. "I think Michael will definitely go if he gets a visa," he said. "He is ready for a first grade job."

The well regarded McGuire will replace the discarded Brian Noble, with Wigan's successful Academy coach, Shaun Wane, likely to be his assistant.

Huddersfield have belied their disappointing end to the season by taking the two main prizes in Super League's end of season awards. Their captain and full-back, Brett Hodgson, was voted Man Of Steel by his fellow professionals, as the season's best player. He emerged from a shortlist that also included Saints' James Graham and the bookies' favourite, Adrian Morley of Warrington. The Giants' coach, Nathan Brown, took that award in his first year in England, while Sam Tomkins of Wigan was Young Player of the Year.

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