Kear gambles on bargain buy

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John Kear has had considerable success dipping into the lower divisions on Wakefield's behalf, but his instinct for an unconsidered bargain faces one of its bigger tests this weekend.

With eight players injured for tomorrow's trip to Wigan, Kear has offered a part-time contract to the 19-year-old Hunslet hooker, Luke Blake, who has had to take time off from bricklaying with his dad to prepare with his new team-mates for what could be his big day .

"It's up to him to show that he's worth a full-time contract," he said. "We have brought plenty of players in from the lower divisions who have done well for us."

With Tevita Leo-Latu injured and Brad Drew needed at half-back, Blake could get a chance at the JJB tomorrow. More certain is that two new recruits for the pack, James Stosic and Steve Snitch, will make their first appearances.

It is the first competitive game for the Wildcats since the sudden death of their prop, Adam Watene. Their captain, Jason Demetriou, will wear the No 8 shirt in his memory.

Wigan will have Amos Roberts and Mark "Piggy" Riddell making their debuts, but Karl Pryce is not fit after tweaking a hamstring in the friendly at Leigh last week.

Tim Smith must fill the gap left at stand-off by the return to Australia of Trent Barrett and his coach, Brian Noble, believes that the arrival of Riddell, an old friend and team-mate, will help him do so.

Harlequins' game against Bradford tomorrow remains in doubt after more heavy snow and is subject to a pitch inspection today.

Quins already know that they will be without their prop, Daniel Heckenberg, for the start of the season with a shoulder injury, but that has not stopped their coach, Brian McDermott, boldly declaring that the London side expect to win Super League this year. His confidence faces an early test, the weather willing, against his old club, who have only their long-term injury victims, Andy Lynch and Tame Tupou, missing.

Tomorrow also marks the start of the Northern Rail Cup, but Halifax's match against Blackpool was an early casualty because of ice at The Shay.

Mick Crocker's stalled move to Hull faces further complications with the entry of the Australian club, Canterbury, into the equation.

Crocker has been turned down for a British visa and, although he is to appeal, he has been told that could take three months. In the meantime, Canterbury have inquired about his availability.

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