Leigh thrown a lifeline by Gateshead demise

Coach Millward heralds 'new start' as club is spared demotion to third tier
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Leigh, a Super League club four years ago, have been reprieved from relegation to Championship One. Due to drop from the Co-operative Championship, they have been thrown a lifeline by an Rugby Football League decision to send Gateshead, who finished above them on points difference, down instead.

The company running the North-east club has been wound up and Gateshead will start again under a new board – and with a six-point deduction – in Championship One, the game's third tier. "It was clear that Gateshead were in no position to carry on," said the League's chief executive, Nigel Wood.

The news was greeted with delight by Leigh, who, with their new ground and the return of Ian Millward as coach, have ambitions which would, at the very least, have been badly delayed by relegation. "Everyone is relieved and ecstatic," said Millward, who started his English coaching career with Leigh before going to St Helens and Wigan. "This is a new start for the club and an opportunity to grab this second chance with both hands."

Gateshead are also relieved that their business plan has been approved by the League for them to play next season, albeit at a lower level. "This is fantastic news for us, but there is still plenty of hard work ahead," said their chief executive, Rod Findlay.

The little-known New Zealander, Leon Williamson, has emerged as the compromise choice to referee the Four Nations final at Elland Road, Leeds, on Saturday. With Australia refusing to accept Steve Ganson and England equally reluctant to play under Shayne Hayne, the two countries have settled for the official neither of them wanted – a 40-year-old Kiwi with no previous experience at this level, although Williamson has refereed both finalists in this tournament without major incident.

Hayne, meanwhile, will be confined to the previously unheard-of role of video-referee observer, presumably looking over the shoulder of England's Phil Bentham. England and Australia are both to name their teams for the final today.

Ganson is among those to be asked for their version of events on Monday night before the Rugby League decides whether Bobbie Goulding should face an investigation into his behaviour. The France national coach is alleged to have assaulted several other guests at the International Player of the Year dinner in Leeds.

Wigan's new coach, Michael Maguire, has arrived at the club and dropped a strong hint that he is not expecting any new signings. "I'm quite happy with the squad, from the seniors down to the junior players," said the former Melbourne assistant after watching his first training sessions.