Australia's leading referee, Bill Harrigan, yesterday pulled out of the second Ashes Test after announcing his retirement.
The 43-year-old, who has refereed a record 10 Grand Finals and 22 Tests, was due to be in charge of Australia's match with Great Britain at Hull on 15 November.
Harrigan, whose flamboyant style has earned him the nickname "Hollywood", said: "This has been a very difficult decision. If I were to referee the Test in England, I would be making a commitment to go forward, and the mere fact that I'm thinking about things suggest that this is the right time to retire."
The National Rugby League chief, David Gallop, said: "Bill told us that he wanted to pursue off-field opportunities. It was very much his decision and we had certainly made it clear today that our preferred option was for Bill to continue refereeing.
"In this, the year of the official, he has been an outstanding example to anyone considering refereeing. He has changed the way people referee not only in our sport but has influenced other sports as well through his incredible commitment to, and understanding of the game.
"To have controlled 10 Grand Finals, 22 Test matches, 21 State of Origins and 393 first-grade matches is simply phenomenal."
In the absence of suitable neutral referees, and under an agreement between the two countries, the Rugby Football League will appoint the officials for the first and third Tests, with Australia choosing the referee for the second match.
Widnes Vikings are upset that their new signing, Australian scrum-half Jason Ferris, has retired from the game. Ferris contacted club officials overnight to inform them of his decision, just 12 hours after he had told the Widnes coach, Neil Kelly, how much he was looking forward to the new challenge.
"Jason assured us everything was OK," said the club's media manager, Andrew Kirchin. "But he's obviously decided not to uproot his family.
"We're disappointed and a little red-faced, but we're glad we don't have an unhappy player coming to join us and wish him all the best."
Huddersfield's talismanic half-back Stanley Gene is expected to play out his career with the Giants after signing an extended two-year contract.
The 29-year-old Papua New Guinea international, who had 12 months left of his current deal, has ended speculation over his future by signing a new contract that will keep him at the McAlpine Stadium until the end of 2006.
The Huddersfield chief executive, Ralph Rimmer, said: "We've been well aware of the huge interest in Stanley Gene but we're proud and delighted to say he's going nowhere.
"We believe the deal that Stan has signed means he has now committed the rest of his top-flight career to our club."Reuse content