FinanciallytroubledWakefield lay off players

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The Independent Online

Wakefield Trinity's last two games of the Super League season are in doubt following drastic measures to cut costs at the debt-ridden club. Trinity went into a Company Voluntary Agreement yesterday as they continued to struggle against debts estimated at £1.5m. They then terminated the contracts of all their players over the age of 24 - for whom they cannot collect transfer fees - although they are appealing to them to play in the final fixtures, at home to Warrington on Sunday and at Castleford next weekend, on reduced terms.

Wakefield Trinity's last two games of the Super League season are in doubt following drastic measures to cut costs at the debt-ridden club. Trinity went into a Company Voluntary Agreement yesterday as they continued to struggle against debts estimated at £1.5m. They then terminated the contracts of all their players over the age of 24 - for whom they cannot collect transfer fees - although they are appealing to them to play in the final fixtures, at home to Warrington on Sunday and at Castleford next weekend, on reduced terms.

If they agree, it will be without their coach, Tony Kemp. He was due to leave at the end of the season in any event, but resigned yesterday in protest. "I'm very dismayed by what the club has done," he said. "This is not how I expected my career to end."

Wakefield's problems arise from over-extending themselves when promised large-scale investment by their then chief executive, John Pearman. The failure of Pearman - since dismissed - to bring in that money has left them unable to meet their wage bill and other overheads. They will now lose players such as Steve Prescott, Adam Hughes, Steve McNamara, Willie Poching and Francis Stephenson, who will be picked off by other Super League clubs. Those losses, plus their precarious finances, raise serious doubts about Wakefield's ability to compete among the élite next year.

The club's directors said they would be trying to convince Super League and the Rugby League of their viability for next season and insisted that their remaining fixtures will be fulfilled. The Rugby League Players' Association is representing the Wakefield players as they try to sort out their futures.

Bradford are unlikely to have their club captain, Robbie Paul, back from injury for what their coach, Matthew Elliott, calls "the biggest game in the northern hemisphere in either code" against Leeds tonight. Leeds have Richie Blackmore returning after suspension to replace Graham Mackay in the centres. Mackay is expected to be out for two weeks with facial injuries following the tackle last week from St Helens' Vila Matautia, whose appeal against a six-match suspension failed last night.

Mal Meninga, the former Australian Test captain now coaching Canberra, has said that he would consider a job in Britain when he leaves his post at the end of next season. Meninga played for St Helens in the mid-1980s. The former Canberra back-room men, Shaun McRae and Dean Lance, now with Hull and Leeds respectively, are among the prospective candidates being linked with the Raiders.

The Huddersfield-Sheffield Giants, the product of a merger this year, have dropped Sheffield from their title for next season after admitting that they have failed to attract any support from the city.

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