Dewsbury heed Trinity's travails

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The Independent Online

As Dewsbury contemplate the possibility - to put it no stronger than that - of Super League rugby next season, they might well be casting a slightly nervous eye in the direction of their near neighbours at Wakefield Trinity.

As Dewsbury contemplate the possibility - to put it no stronger than that - of Super League rugby next season, they might well be casting a slightly nervous eye in the direction of their near neighbours at Wakefield Trinity.

The winners of last weekend's Northern Ford Premiership Grand Final want - or say they want - to follow in the footsteps of Wakefield, who won promotion two years ago and then amazed everyone by staying up last season. But that is where Dewsbury will hope that any comparisons end, because Trinity's situation this season gives ammunition to those who argue that promoting an ill-equipped club can kill them more surely than cutting off their central funding. Wakefield, who face another daunting afternoon on the pitch today with the visit of Wigan, are beset by problems off it. There is a big debt and a recurring cashflow problem.

But the moral behind that, according to their long-serving director, Stuart Farrar, is not that clubs should avoid promotion to Super League. "It is that, when you get there, you should live within your means," he says.

Wakefield did that last season, assembling a workmanlike squad inexpensively and winning enough games to keep their heads comfortably above water. With the arrival of John Pearman as chief executive, however, those basic tenets of good housekeeping seem to have been discarded.

High-priced players such as Steve McNamara and Warren Jowitt from Bradford, Bobbie Goulding from Huddersfield and Steve Prescott from Hull have been added to the mix, without the side looking stronger for the investment. Their coach, Andy Kelly, a hero last season, became a scapegoat this - with the additional expense of a severance settlement.

Wakefield continue to live in hope that Pearman will come up with the investment he promised, but even the trap they have fallen into does not convince the Dewsbury chairman, Bob McDermott, that the road to Super League is necessarily a primrose path leading to destruction.

"We're very realistic at Dewsbury," he says. "We almost went out of business in 1996 and we would never allow it to get to that stage again.

"If we go up, our wage bill will be 40 per cent lower than Halifax's - and theirs is the lowest in Super League. You don't have to pay a fortune to be successful. We would have to sign six to eight players, but only one of them would be a star name on big money - to get people talking."

Wakefield and Dewsbury spoke about a merger in 1997, when Trinity earmarked a site for a new stadium beside the M62 that was actually closer to Dewsbury's home ground than their own. The collision of circumstances this year means that they may talk again but, should they both remain as stand-alone operations, Dewsbury take Wakefield to be a warning of the pitfalls, not a warning of the inevitable consequences of promotion.

Besides, there is another way of looking at it. Hunslet's failure to gain promotion after winning the Northern Ford final last season also kicked the guts out of that club.

Perhaps the NFP winner cannot actually win. "But we will have to manage it if we go up, and have to manage it if we don't," says McDermott. Neither is an easy option.

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