Gary Hetherington unhappy at Super League reverse


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The Independent Online

The chief executive of Leeds Rhinos, Gary Hetherington, has expressed his dismay at the Rugby Football League's decision to postpone its restructuring of the domestic game until after the World Cup.

On Monday the Super League clubs got together to force the game's governing body to call off its extraordinary general meeting in Leeds today, when arrangements were due to be finalised for a new league comprising two divisions of 12 teams, a scrapping of the licensing system whereby teams need to fulfil certain criteria to maintain their top-flight status, and the restoration of automatic promotion and relegation from 2015.

However, the concerns of the rebel clubs, led by Wigan's owner, Ian Lenagan, appear to be about who will be in control of the game and, in particular, its finances. The RFL plans would weaken Super League's financial position since Championship clubs would receive more central funding.

Lenagan also wants Super League clubs to be given a greater say in the future direction of the sport, with representation on the currently independent board of directors.

Hetherington, who did not attend the meeting, said the Rhinos would have backed the RFL's recommendations. "Although there hasn't been a vote, clubs have expressed their preference so I would have expected the meeting to be a simple rubber-stamping of what has gone beforehand," he said. The clubs had already agreed in principle that Super League could be reduced to 12 teams.

The Super League meeting on Monday was effectively a vote of no confidence in the governing body and a blow to the credibility of the RFL chief executive, Nigel Wood, who was the driving force behind the review.

Warrington forward Ben Westwood will be available for England's opening World Cup match against Australia in Cardiff on 26 October. The 32-year-old second-rower has been given a one-match ban for punching Wigan stand-off Blake Green in Saturday's Super League Grand Final but will be able to serve it when Steve McNamara's team play Italy in a warm-up match at Salford on 19 October.

The New Zealand coach, Stephen Kearney, has confirmed that Sonny Bill Williams has made himself available for the World Cup. The former All Black was not named in Kearney's 24-man squad on Monday, with the selectors citing the player's "other commitments" as the reason for his absence, but Williams has since expressed his desire to help the Kiwis retain their trophy.