Pendlebury's departure opens door for Deakin to return home

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The Independent Online

Steve Deakin, the coach sacked by the Catalan Dragons before the start of their first season in Super League, is back in the game as coach of his hometown club, Oldham.

Deakin takes over in time for tonight's Northern Rail Cup match at Halifax, replacing John Pendlebury, who resigned yesterday, just three matches into his first season in charge.

Pendlebury, who was Super League Coach of the Year when he steered Halifax to third place in 1998, cited "personal reasons", but is understood to have been unhappy about training arrangements.

The Oldham chairman, Chris Hamilton, described it as "a bolt from the blue" before the club moved quickly to fill the vacancy.

Deakin is a member of the "first family" of Oldham rugby league and brother of the late Peter. His jobs in England included Keighley and Sheffield, before successful stints in France with Cannes and UTC.

Harlequins fear that Paul Sykes will be out for the rest of the season after suffering kidney damage in the victory at Hull on Friday.

Sykes is still in hospital and will be out of action for at least two months. "Paul's long-term health is our main concern," said his coach, Tony Rea. "We're not even thinking about football at the moment."

"I'm gutted," Sykes said. "They are not going to operate so that's something that's positive."

Hull have suffered a double blow as they prepare for their Super League match against champions Bradford, with the loss of hooker Richard Swain and prop Ewan Dowes.

Swain, Hull's captain, is likely to be sidelined for at least six weeks with a torn bicep, while Dowes suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury in Friday's 10-6 home defeat by Harlequins.

Widnes have denied rumours linking them with Nat Wood, the 33-year-old Australian scrum-half who retired at the end of last season with Warrington.

"He's a good player but, as far as I know, he's on the import quota," said the Widnes coach, Steve McCormack. "We have David Peachey as our quota player and we're very happy with him." The club is looking for overseas players with British passports to strengthen their squad.

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