Massive betting on suspicious early penalty sparks NRL investigation

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The Independent Online

New South Wales police have taken their investigation into an alleged betting scam, with echoes of the Pakistan cricket spot-fixing case, across the border into Queensland.

The probe into the Canterbury Bulldogs' match against the North Queensland Cowboys in the NRL was launched after massive betting on the Cowboys opening the scoring with a penalty goal. The Bulldogs conceded a suspicious early penalty in front of their sticks, although the Cowboys chose to run the ball and scored a try.

Players at the Bulldogs have already been interviewed and the focus has now switched to Townsville, where the Cowboys are based.

The scandal, if proved, could be a threat to Hull KR's fielding the Australian Test forward, Willie Mason, who they have signed for next season. The NRL is not directly involved in the investigation, but has talked of lifetime bans for any players found to be implicated.

Stephen Kearney, who will coach New Zealand in the Four Nations this month, has also been appointed coach of Parramatta. He replaces Daniel Anderson, the former St Helens coach who reached the Grand Final last season, but was sacked when the Eels failed to make the NRL play-offs this year.

Bradford insist that Matt Orford will be back with them next season, despite being in heavy demand by NRL clubs. The half-back returned early to Australia for shoulder surgery and many Bulls fans do not expect to see him in their colours again. "He is due back for training at the beginning of November," said the club's chief executive, Ryan Duckett. "He remains contracted to the club for another two years."

Francis Cummins, who announced in mid-season that he was resigning from his post as assistant coach at Leeds, is taking up a similar position at Bradford. He will work under Mick Potter, alongside Lee St Hilaire, who has been caretaker-coach at the Bulls since Steve McNamara stood down to concentrate on his England duties.

Cummins had been linked with the vacancy left by Brian McDermott at Harlequins, but they have yet to make an appointment. McDermott has become assistant at Leeds, but they are still seeking a new man to bring them back up to strength following the departure of Cummins and Willie Poching.

The former Test winger Mark Calderwood is leaving Hull after a season ruined by injury. The ex-Leeds and Wigan man has managed only four appearances this year.

Hull KR have re-signed their prop, Scott Wheeldon, on a two-year contract. He has been with the Robins since moving across the city from Hull in 2008 and will be one of the front-rowers potentially competing with Mason for a place next season.

Sheffield Eagles, one of the surprise packets in the Championship last season, have re-signed three of their prop forwards – Mitchell Stringer, Ryan Hepworth and Alex Rowe.