Sponsor steps up to boost fortunes of National League clubs

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The Independent Online

The semi-professional game has found the backer it has been seeking for the last 18 months after agreeing a sponsorship deal worth six figures with LHF Healthplan.

National Leagues One, Two and Three will begin their second seasons under the LHF banner in a one-year deal worth more than £100,000. The agreement is a major boost for the game below Super League level, which has been without a sponsor since Northern Ford ended their involvement at the end of the 2002 season. National League clubs no longer receive a share of the Sky television payment, but the financial gloom has lifted from them to some extent, with the last of them emerging from administration.

Castleford attempt to inject some life into their Super League season at home to St Helens tonight, with the Castleford coach, Graham Steadman, hoping that two weeks on the training field since their last game will have ironed out their flaws. "We've changed one or two things defensively and I expect an improvement in our performance," he said.

In tonight's other match, Bradford have Michael Withers back after injury and could give the young winger Andy Smith his debut at home to Salford, who plan to give Neil Baynes and John Clough their first appearances of the season.

The 19-year-old utility forward Bob Beswick will make his debut for Wigan at Huddersfield on Sunday. Another young forward, Harrison Hansen, was in line to step up, but has broken the scaphoid bone in his wrist and will be out for six weeks.

Wakefield's Albert Talipeau has recovered from a similar injury, but is unlikely to play against Hull tomorrow.

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