Radlinski refuses 'magnificent' union offer

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The Independent Online

Kris Radlinski has given rugby league another much-needed boost by rejecting a far bigger offer from rugby union to stay with Wigan.

The Great Britain full-back was a target for the RFU, with Leicester emerging as the late favourites to field him in the Zurich Premiership, but a five-year contract with Wigan, topped up by central funding from the Club GB initiative has persuaded him to stay.

"I always wanted to stay, although I was pretty close to giving it up," said Radlinski. "I'm delighted that the matter is finally settled. Wigan is my home-town club and all I ever wanted to do was don the famous cherry and white and follow in the footsteps of my heroes who I used to watch from the terraces at Central Park.

"This is a great club and I want to be part of the team's ambition to get better and better." The Wigan chairman, Maurice Lindsay, who admitted that he could not match rugby union's offer because of the club's salary cap, was clearly a relieved man.

"I was gobsmacked by how much rugby union were prepared to pay Kris," he said. "He had a magnificent offer and accepted a lower deal to stay with us." Radlinski was under contract at Wigan for next season, but the RFU had offered to buy that out. His new deal will keep him at the JJB Stadium until the end of the 2006 season, by which time he will be 30.

The deal is an important one for Great Britain as well – something emphasised by Radlinski immediately leaving for a training session with the national squad that will face Australia this autumn.

Like the St Helens hooker, Keiron Cunningham, he was considered essential enough to the Great Britain side for the RFL to organise the extra funding to bulk up Wigan's offer.

"Club GB is a good concept and Keiron Cunningham and Kris Radlinski are worthy of the recognition and the support they have received," said the League's director of rugby, Greg McCallum. The next call for their help may come from Warrington, whose stand-off, Lee Briers, is the subject of bids from Wales. Briers, however, would not meet the stated criterion of being "irreplaceable" in the national team.

The Wakefield coach, John Harbin, is to have remarks he made after his club's defeat by Hull on Monday referred to the meeting of the League's board of directors next Tuesday.

Harbin was fiercely critical of the administrators who have docked his side the points for a breach of their salary cap that could see them relegated from Super League and complained that he had not even been told that an appeal hearing had been set for next Thursday.

"We very much regret that a Wakefield official has chosen to make these comments about the appeal process," said McCallum. "Apart from being potentially prejudicial, they have been made apparently without the knowledge that the hearing date had been agreed with the agreement of Wakefield via their legal advisor." The hearing falls two days before the match against Huddersfield, currently a point behind Wakefield, which is being televised on 8 September.

The League says it will give "sympathetic consideration" to any application for membership from a new club in Keighley. The Keighley Cougars went into liquidation last Friday, but two former directors have promised to launch a new operation. "Several rigorous conditions would need to apply before they would be readmitted, and it would be likely to be as associate rather than full members," said the RFL's spokesman, John Huxley.

Castleford have signed the former Wigan utility player Andy Johnson from London Broncos on a two-year deal.