Doncaster plight tempts Hanley to coach again

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The Independent Online

Ellery Hanley has taken on the biggest challenge of his distinguished career by becoming Doncaster's new coach. The man recently voted Britain's greatest ever player has joined forces with what has been, at various times, Britain's least successful club.

Doncaster, whose struggles in the 70s formed the basis of the classic documentary, Another Bloody Sunday, are back at the lowest level of the professional game in National League Two. Last season, they went bust, were docked six points and crowds averaged under 2,000 as they were relegated. But when they start their 2008 campaign in the Northern Rail Cup against the London Skolars on 1 February, it will be with the most famous rugby league figure of his generation at the helm. Hanley, aged 46, has agreed a three-year contract with a club which could not be much further removed from his glory days of leading Wigan to every available trophy, season after season.

"I was attracted by a different kind of challenge," he said, "taking a team from the doldrums."

Hanley revealed that he had been contacted about the job, vacated by the sudden resignation last month of John Stankevitch, by a go-between.

Apart from a brief stint helping out Castleford in 2004, he has been out of the game for almost eight years, concentrating on his other sporting passion of squash and on his property portfolio. "I was very content with what I was doing, but I was very impressed by the enthusiasm of the club," he said. "Money was not a factor." Doncaster see Hanley, who also played for Bradford, Leeds and the Australian clubs, Balmain and Western Suburbs, as well as winning 36 Test caps, as the standard-bearer who can bring credibility to their Super League ambitions.

"We wanted to make a massive statement and this shows the intent of the club," said the Doncaster chairman, Craig Harrison. "There is an aura about Ellery and this is a fantastic signing for rugby league."

Hanley, who had a stormy relationship with his board at St Helens during his only other foray into club coaching, is Doncaster's fifth coach in 12 months.

They won just five matches in National League Two last season, but have a fine stadium and have recruited more ambitiously this time, with their new arrivals headed by the former Australian Test centre, Chris McKenna.

Hanley, who was seen at far more games last season than at any time since his retirement, will have his own ideas of others he would like to bring in.

Hull KR have decided not to appeal against Paul Cooke's suspension for making an illegal approach to them to trigger his transfer from Hull.

Cooke had claimed to be a free agent, but was found guilty by an RFL tribunal and ruled out until 21 March, when Hull are Rovers' opponents. Hull have still to decide whether to take any action of their own against Cooke or his new club.

Life and times of game's greatest

1961 Born in Leeds

1978 Signs for Bradford Northern and makes his first-team debut

1984 Great Britain debut

1984-5 Tops 50 tries in season and joins Wigan for record fee of 150,000 plus two players

1991 Transfers to Leeds for record 250,000

1994-5 Coaches Great Britain

1999 Coaches St Helens to Super League title

2000 Sacked by Saints. Coaches in rugby union with Bristol and England 2004 Works as consultant with Castleford

2007 Appointed coach of Doncaster