Millard prepared to take final gamble in pursuit of grand prize

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The Independent Online

Shane Millard goes back to Headingley tonight for the final eliminator that could be the last game of his career. The Wigan and former Leeds hooker is struggling from match to match on a knee that will require surgery at the end of the season.

"The chances are I'll have to give it away," he said. "I want to play out my contract, but sometimes these things happen. The important thing is that I'm finding a way to get the job done at the moment."

Wigan's seven-match winning run has taken them to within one victory of the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford and has coincided with the veteran Australian starting matches. "I certainly enjoy it and it suits our team and the way we play," said Millard, who also believes that Leeds had the more draining game last weekend.

"They were walking the ball up by the end and it was also a very emotional game for them," he said.

If that, plus his own familiarity with Leeds tactics, are potential advantages for Wigan tonight, then they must cope with the setback of losing another ex-Rhino, Mark Calderwood, with a broken ankle.

"That's a massive miss for us," Millard said. "He's a player others love playing with, because he always gives 110 per cent."

Great Britain and New Zealand have both lost a player from their squads for this autumn's Test series. Paul Deacon has a lingering hamstring injury, while the Kiwis' Steve Matai needs shoulder surgery. Deacon, the Bradford scrum-half, had been recalled after a two-year absence and his withdrawal, plus the international retirement of Sean Long, leaves Britain short of experienced options in the position.

Matai, who played in last year's Tri-Nations, will play against Australia in Wellington next Saturday before having the operation.

He will be joined in the Kiwi side by Fuifui Moimoi and Taniela Tuiaki, both of whom have been cleared to play for New Zealand by the International Federation, despite having previously represented Tonga.

Moving in the opposite direction in the confusing world of international qualification are Iafeta Paleaaesina, Nigel Vagana and Tony Puletua, who have been given permission to represent Samoa, despite previously playing for New Zealand. Paleaaesina's Wigan team-mate, Harrison Hansen, who qualifies for both New Zealand and Great Britain, is considering declaring for Samoa.

Israel Folau, the Melbourne threequarter, will become Australia's youngest-ever Test player, at the age of 18, after being called up to replace Justin Hodges, who has an ankle injury.