Long leaves Tri-Nations tour

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The Independent Online

Great Britain coach Brian Noble today insisted Sean Long had left Great Britain's squad due to "personal issues" after the scrum-half cut short his involvement in the Tri-Nations tournament to return home.

Noble denied the 30-year-old, one of rugby league's great characters, left the GB training camp in Manly, because of gambling or drinking problems, as initial reports in Australia had suggested.

"That's completely away from the truth," said Noble. "There's going to be lots of stories coming out and not coming out. It's for personal reasons.

"It's nothing to do with gambling, nothing to do with other than he has got personal issues."

The shock development comes just nine days after arguably his greatest performance, a man-of-the-match display in Britain's magnificent 23-12 win over Australia in Sydney and just 24 hours after it was revealed he was in talks about a permanent move Down Under.

The St Helens star will no longer be a part of the Lions squad for the remainder of the Tri-Nations tournament.

A statement released by the Great Britain team read: "The player Sean Long has left the Great Britain training camp based and has returned home to the UK for personal reasons.

"Sean Long took a flight from Sydney airport late this afternoon.

"No replacement will be called up and the squad will now continue preparations for the match against Australia at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday."

The Wigan-born Long has been one of the leading lights in the era of Super League, having amassed more than 2,000 points for Saints since joining them from Widnes in 1997 and is second in the club's all-time list of scorers.

He was named Man of Steel in 2000 as the game's outstanding player and in August made history by becoming the first player to win the Lance Todd Trophy for the third time as man of the match in the Challenge Cup final.

Yet he has never been far from controversy.

He once posed nude in a magazine and was banned for three months and fined £7,500 in the summer of 2004 after being found guilty of betting £1,000 on a weakened St Helens to lose to Bradford by more than eight points.

It was a story that gripped the sporting world and Long, along with team-mate Martin Gleeson, took shelter in a caravan belonging to club captain Paul Sculthorpe until the furore died down.

His colourful lifestyle appeared to change when he got married last year and the couple have a young daughter with a second baby on the way.

One of the most successful players in the domestic game, he achieved a notable breakthrough earlier this month by transferring his club form onto the international stage for the first time and only yesterday was revealed to have held discussions with Australia national coach Ricky Stuart about a move to Cronulla Sharks.

Out of contract with St Helens at the end of next season, Long is now facing an uncertain future.

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