The compilers of the rugby league fixtures have always had a sense of timing, not to mention a sense of humour. If there is any way of bringing two sides together at a moment loaded with irony, you can bet your season ticket it will happen.
The latest manifestation of this will come at Belle Vue today, where Wakefield – who, against all the odds, will be a Super League club next season – welcome Crusaders, who will not. The Welsh club, by announcing their withdrawal from Super League, saved Trinity, who were surely destined for demotion.
There is bound to be an element of celebration for Wakefield and their fans today, although their coach, John Kear – who announced yesterday that he will leave the club at the end of the season – admits to feeling sorry for the Crusaders players and their followers. That will not stop the Wildcats from trying to deepen the Welsh gloom, although they will be without Glen Morrison, Luke George and Julien Rinaldi and they have not selected the Australian prop Jarrad Hickey.
A further benefit for Wakefield is that they are now favourites to sign the Leeds and Great Britain centre Keith Senior, whose two-year contract with Crusaders was one of the casualties of their crash.
The Wrexham-based club's coach, Iestyn Harris, has named Jarrod Sammut in his 19-man squad, despite the half-back having agreed terms with Bradford. Whether there will be a Crusaders side next year, even at semi-professional level in the Championship, is uncertain, although the chairman of the Rugby League, Richard Lewis, was adamant this week that all is not lost.
"Rugby league in Wales has made massive strides in recent years and I'm confident that we can build on that burgeoning popularity," he said.
More practically, the RFL has given clubs a dispensation to sign Crusaders players, even though their overseas quotas might be full. Salford are admitting to interest in Ryan O'Hara, while others like Jason Chan, Michael Witt and Lincoln Withers should have little difficulty in finding new clubs if they want to.
Two Challenge Cup semi-finalists meet at Castleford today. St Helens' coach, Royce Simmons, says he is not resting Francis Meli and Sia Soliola with half an eye on next weekend's match against Wigan. For Cas, Willie Isa, back from injury, and Martin Aspinwall, released from prison, could get a chance to stake a claim for a place in their semi-final against Leeds.
Warrington, who are at home to Bradford, are still without Adrian Morley and Lee Briers and have added David Solomona to their injured list after he was hurt in a controversial tackle in the Wolves' thrilling Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat by Wigan. Tyrone McCarthy, who has been playing for Leigh on a joint-registration contract, is recalled to the Wolves' 19-man squad.
For Bradford, the forward Ian Sibbit returns after injury to play against his first club.
Hull have told the Tongan forward Epalahame Lauaki that they would like to retain him, despite previously giving him permission to talk to other clubs. The prop was apparently squeezed out by the club's import quota, but now Hull have succeeded in having one of theirnew signings, Aaron Heremaia, re-classified. They now want to talk to Lauaki about staying, although he has already spoken with Wigan and Salford.
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