Elliott to exchange Bradford Bulls for Canberra

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The Independent Online

Matthew Elliot has announced that he is to leave Bradford at the end of the season - which could mean after tomorrow's play-off eliminator against Leeds.

Matthew Elliot has announced that he is to leave Bradford at the end of the season - which could mean after tomorrow's play-off eliminator against Leeds.

Elliott, in charge at Odsal since 1996, is to join the Canberra Raiders as assistant to Mal Meninga, with the prospect of succeeding him when Meninga steps down at the end of next season.

"Decision to leave the Bulls after five very rewarding and successful years is without doubt the most difficult of my professional life," said Elliott, who cited family reasons and a desire to coach in the world's top competition as factors behind his move.

Bradford are two games away from the Grand Final, but only if they beat Leeds; in either event, tomorrow's game will be his last at Odsal.

"The next month presents my last opportunity to achieve something special with this group of outstanding players," said Elliott. "All my energies and concentration will be focused on providing the leadership required at this time of year."

In the past Elliott has been linked with positions in Australia, including the job at Wests Tigers that finally went last month to Terry Lamb.

"Matthew and I had an agreement that if an opportunity came along in Australia we would not stand in his way," said the Bradford chairman, Chris Caisley. "It's a great chance for him and I wish him the best."

In his five years since succeeding Brian Smith, Elliott has won Super League in 1997 and reached the Grand Final last year, as well as winning the Challenge Cup this season.

The likeliest choice to replace him is his assistant, the former Great Britain captain, Brian Noble, especially now that new rules would limit the choice from Australia to coaches who - unlike Elliott - have worked there at first grade level.

Leeds' coach, Dean Lance, returned to work yesterday after the end of the industrial tribunal in which the Rhinos' winger, Paul Sterling, accused him of racial discrimination.

In what must have been an interesting session, Sterling trained yesterday, although a tender ankle could keep him out of the game. Chev Walker and David Barnhill have been added to last weeks squad.

In tonight's play-off, Dwayne West's reward for helping set up the try that saved St Helens against Bradford last week could be to lose his place in the squad to face Wigan.

Despite West's late heroics, his coach, Ian Millward, feels he might need an extra forward on the bench, which would mean bringing in Sonny Nickle for either West or Steve Hall.

Millward, who has been told that he cannot recruit any more new players for next season, has spoken enviously this week of Wigan's resources, which are underlined by the way that Frank Endacott is likely to stick with the 17 that beat Saints in the final Super League game a fortnight ago, despite now having Simon Haughton fit again.

Demonstrating their depth, Wigan yesterday signed their young hooker, Mark Smith, on a new, three-year contract. Smith is the understudy to Terry Newton, but Endacott said: "It's great to have two good young British hookers in our club."

Rob Smyth, who scored five tries in four games while on loan from the London Broncos, has joined Warrington, also on a three-year deal.

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