The Rugby Football League has named its first six full-time referees, with the notable omission of one of the game's most high-profile officials, Karl Kirkpatrick.
The Warrington-based referee, who has been in charge of a series of big games over the past few years, including the 2006 Grand Final, was unwilling to give up his job with the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Among the six who have taken the leap include the current Super League Referee of the Year, Richard Silverwood, and Britain's representative in the Tri-Nations, Ashley Klein. The others are Ben Thaler, Ian Smith, Phil Bentham and Steve Ganson. They are expected to officiate at the majority of Super League matches, as well as most of the season's other major events, but the League has stressed that there are no guarantees.
"It's important that it's not seen as a closed shop," said the RFL's director of match officials, Stuart Cummings. "It will always be down to who is performing. The best six will referee in Super League, whether they are full-time or part-time."
The six full-timers are already involved in a pre-season training regime that is intended to give them a new edge to their fitness.
"The overall effect will be to contribute to improving the quality and on-field standard of both Super League and the sport at all levels," Cummings said.
Wakefield have welcomed Semi Tadulala back to training after an aborted loan period with Gloucester. The Fijian winger had hoped to stake a claim for a place in the 2007 World Cup, but could not get a work permit to play rugby union and never appeared for Gloucester.
The two clubs had agreed a transfer fee, but Tadulala has now returned to Belle Vue, where he has a year to run on his contract.
The Wildcats' coach, John Kear, said that he had not wanted to stand in the way of the player's ambition, but was delighted to have him back.
The club's hooker, David March, will miss his own testimonial, against Dewsbury on 21 January, after tearing a calf muscle.
Warrington's stand-off, Simon Grix, will be out for three months after a second shoulder operation.Reuse content