O'Connor salutes 'stand-out' Smith as Widnes release four

Widnes, the Championship club with the most realistic Super League ambitions, have axed four players from next year's squad. The four include their former captain and former Wigan hooker, Mark Smith, along with another long-serving forward, Lee Doran.

Two younger players with first team experience, Scott Yates and Matt Strong, have also been released. "We're not alone in this predicament, as every single club up and down the country is in the same boat as us and will have to be making similarly tough announcements over the coming weeks," said the club's sporting director, Terry O'Connor, who paid particular tribute to Smith.

"Mark Smith has given us six years of outstanding service and has been a stand-out player throughout," he said.

The decision on the quartet comes after the enforced retirement through injury last week of Toa Kohe-Love and Anthony Thackeray's refusal of a new contract. Widnes are hoping to be awarded a Super League licence next March and can be expected to launch a determined recruitment drive when and if that happens.

The Warrington hooker, Michael Monaghan, is paying for his granddad, Ernie, to fly from Australia to see him play in the Challenge Cup final on Saturday, the first time he has been on a plane. Monaghan was man of the match in last year's final.

Huddersfield's Jamahl Lolesi has admitted that he will not play again this season. The Kiwi centre has been struggling with a back injury and, although he says he could play in an emergency, has decided to have surgery and prepare himself for the final year of his Giants' contract.

That will mean missing Huddersfield's last Super League game of the season at the Catalan Dragons, plus whatever run they can put together in the play-offs. "I can't contribute to the side as much as I want, simply because my back won't let me," Lolesi said.

Hull KR's prop, Joel Clinton, has recovered after being ruled out of their game at Salford by an unusual complaint – a piece of Blu-Tack was found in his ear. It is thought to be a left-over from his habit of making his own ear-plugs and doctors believe it could have been there for years.

Another Rovers forward, Ben Galea, is ready to return after being told that he does not need an operation on an eye injury.

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