Problems with coaches upset play-off rivals

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The Independent Online

By Comparison with the situation Leeds have found themselves in this week, Bradford's discovery that their coach is to leave must seem entirely routine.

By Comparison with the situation Leeds have found themselves in this week, Bradford's discovery that their coach is to leave must seem entirely routine.

Under normal circumstances, the speculation over tonight's elimination play-off between the Yorkshire rivals would centre on how the Bulls will be affected by Matthew Elliott's impending departure.

An altogether more intractable question is how the Rhinos will cope after a week in which their coach, Dean Lance, has been largely absent, having been taken to an industrial tribunal by Paul Sterling, the Leeds winger who has accused him of racial discrimination.

"It's an unusual situation," said Adrian Morley, the Test forward for whom defeat will mean he has played his last game for Leeds, with some understatement. "We're all professionals and we just get on with it."

Even if Sterling is absent, with an ankle injury that Leeds insist is genuine rather than political, there will be a strange atmosphere in the Leeds camp. Some of the cracks thatappeared at the start of the season could open up again and that is not something they can afford against Bradford.

Graham Mackay is likely to come in for Sterling, with David Barnhill, also on his way out of the club, standing by in case Jamie Mathiou is ruled out.

Bradford report no injury problems and are expected to start with Robbie Paul at scrum-half, rather than Paul Deacon. If they lose, that is the end of the road for MatthewElliott, who is off to join the Canberra Raiders and will not want his tenure to end withdefeat in another big game.

With the honourable exception of this year's Challenge Cup final - against Leeds - the Bulls' failure to win the matches that count has been the blemish on Elliott's record. They surely have everything going for them this time as they try to extend his career with them by at least another week.

The Bradford chairman, Chris Caisley, has criticised the new rule that will limit his prospects of finding a replacement in Australia. The requirement that overseas coaches must have two years first grade experience at home before they qualify to work here could have a negativeeffect of the British game, he said.

"We are in grave danger of reversing the rising standard of Super League," said Caisley, who might, in any case, favour the claims of Elliott's No 2, Brian Noble, when the matter is decided at the end of theseason.

Wakefield's South Sea contingent of Willie Poching, Tony Tatupu and Martin Masella have been exempted from the overseas quota, to help them find new clubs after being left stranded by Trinity's failure to honour their contracts.

Warrington will be the only Super League club to play the touring South Sydney, meeting them at Wilderspool on November 26 - the day after the Lincoln World Cup final.

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