Noble's switch to Wigan hangs in the balance

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The Independent Online

Brian Noble's coaching career is in limbo, stuck in a lay-by somewhere between Bradford and Wigan.

The Bulls coach was expected to confirm his switch to Super League's bottom club yesterday, having said his goodbyes to the players and the Odsal crowd the previous night. But the intervention of two Bradford directors, Jack Bates and Roland Agar, who are desperate for him to stay has left the whole deal in the balance.

Noble seemed determined to move to Wigan because of his unhappiness with the way the issue had been handled by Bulls' chief executive, Gareth Davies. But he met the club's board yesterday morning to give them the chance to persuade him that it would be feasible for him to stay, even with Davies still at the club.

Those in the know still expect him to leave the Super League and world champions for a club in disarray, but some doubts have started to creep in.

Wigan had hoped to have him in charge in time for Saturday's game at Huddersfield, while Bradford were preparing to install Noble's assistant, Steve McNamara, in time for the match at Warrington the following day.

Both clubs said yesterday afternoon, however, that there would be no announcement until today at the earliest, so there must be a suspicion that Noble is having second thoughts - not least about the quality of the squad he would take over and the leeway he would have to improve it.

If their first choice does turn them down, Wigan will have egg all over their face and could have to turn to the relatively untried Adrian Lam, currently assistant coach at Cronulla.

Whoever takes the job will have the current Wigan captain available. Sean O'Loughlin was yesterday found guilty of striking Harlequins' Mark Tookey on Easter Monday. He was fined but escaped a ban.

Trent Barrett, the Australian Test stand-off who has been linked with Wigan for next season, has told his club, St George-Illawarra, that he wants until the end of June to decide whether to go or stay. Wigan have denied that Barrett has changed his mind about joining them since the sacking of Ian Millward.

The Leeds captain, Kevin Sinfield, could be back from his knee injury ahead of schedule against Harlequins on 5 May. Sinfield was originally estimated to be out for six weeks.

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