Early import of new Australians unanimously rejected

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Super League clubs have unanimously rejected a suggestion that a new regiment of Australian players should be flown in for the latter stages of the British season.

With the Australian domestic season ending early because of the Sydney Olympics, the leading Australian players' agent, Wayne Beavis, had approached Super League about a short-term loan of dozens of his clients for the last eight weeks of the campaign, including the play-offs.

"The clubs have discussed it, but they have unanimously turned it down," said Super League's chief executive, Ian Robson. "It would have been short-term opportunism. What sort of message would it have sent out to our own junior players?"

While there would have been some big, crowd-pulling names involved - such as Brad Fittler and Matthew Johns - the feeling of the Super League clubs yesterday was that the distorting effect on their season could not be justified.

The exception would be in the case of players already contracted to British clubs for the 2001 season who would be allowed to arrive early and play in the deciding games of this campaign provided their British club had room on its import quota.

Leigh, one of the clubs bidding for a Super League place next season by winning the Northern Ford Premiership, are mounting a big push this week to attract support from the neighbouring town of Bolton. Their coach, Paul Terzis, said: "Bolton is a much bigger town and if we could attract just a small percentage of their population to Hilton Park it would make a huge difference to us."

The move could be a precursor to the use of the Reebok Stadium as a temporary home for Leigh if they earn a Super League place, while their own ground is being upgraded to meet the required criteria.

St Helens have been hit by another injury blow with the news that their New Zealand international utility player, Sean Hoppe, will be out for eight weeks with a broken hand.

Hoppe suffered the injury early in the game at the London Broncos on Friday night but played on for virtually the whole match, even playing a key role in the match-winning try towards the end.

On a brighter note, Saints hope that they might have their Great Britain hooker, Keiron Cunningham, back sooner than feared, possibly after as little as four weeks.

The Warrington centre, Toa Kohe-Love, has been referred to the disciplinary committee after the viewing of video evidence of a suspected high tackle on Salford's Kris Tassell, during Sunday's match at The Willows.

The League is waiting for a tape of an incident involving the Bradford full-back, Stuart Spruce, in the game against Halifax on Friday before deciding whether he has any case to answer.