Saints lose talisman Long to Hull

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Sean Long, St Helens' most talismanic player of the Super League era, is leaving to take up a two-year contract at Hull. Saints were prepared to offer the 32-year-old scrum-half only a one-year deal and he has opted to move on, after 12 hugely successful years at Knowsley Road, when his contract runs out at the end of this season. "We fully respect Sean's decision," said Saints' chairman, Eamonn McManus. "We wish him well."

Saints are likely to look to their own youngsters to fill the No 7 shirt Long has worn since arriving from Widnes in 1997, with the gifted teenager Kyle Eastmond the player they see as his natural successor. Others of that generation, like Gary Wheeler and Jonny Lomax, also have ambitions at half-back. "We have a number of exciting young players who will be pushing for regular, first-choice selection and they must be given every opportunity," McManus said.

Long's triumphs with Saints include a unique treble of Lance Todd Trophies as man of the match in Challenge Cup-winning sides. The low points included a suspension for a betting scam and a premature return from the 2006 Tri-Nations in Australia.

Long was linked with Huddersfield as well as his first club, Wigan, but said yesterday that the transfer to Humberside would revitalise his career. "This move is absolutely fabulous," he said. "I'm really buzzing and looking forward to joining Hull. A few clubs offered me a two-year deal, but when Hull made an approach and I spoke to Richard Agar I knew where my future was." Agar, the club's coach, said: "Sean is a big name in the game and this is a big signing for us.

"I think this will be very important for the club in the way we are trying to move forward. We have also done well to have beaten off a number of other clubs." Long still has unfinished business at Saints, who are top of Super League and looking forward to a Challenge Cup semi-final against Huddersfield in August.

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