Waite's future plans overshadow British consolation hopes

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If Great Britain win the final Ashes Test at Huddersfield this evening - and they may well do so - it will feel like a hollow victory in the light of the missed opportunities of the first two matches.

The side goes into this game knowing they should have the series won, or at least be level with their perennial tormentors. "To have come so close, but not close enough, that's the thing that made me so angry and disappointed,'' said David Waite this week.

This is Waite's last match as coach of Great Britain and the question today, one far more important than what occurs in this Test, is what happens next.

With the part of his contract that covers coaching the national side running out, Waite is scheduled to make a recommendation about his successor by the end of the year.

Since his brief was to groom a British coach to take over, that effectively narrows the field to his two assistants. However, Graham Steadman all but said this week that he is not ready and does not want it, while Brian Noble is known to be reluctant to leave Bradford, where he has spent the best part of the last three decades as player and coach.

There is a solution to this, one which Waite is likely to suggest. It is that Noble should be persuaded to take the Great Britain job on a part-time basis and carry on with the Bulls.

The flaw in that plan is that there will be only a 10-day gap next year between the Super League Grand Final - in which Bradford are as likely as anyone to be involved - and Great Britain's first game in the Tri-Nations, the new three-cornered tournament involving New Zealand and Australia which will replace Test series for the next three years.

So having a club coach in charge of the national team can only work if he has someone to hold the fort; someone like Waite, who could bolt those extra duties on to his responsibilities as Rugby League's performance director, a role in which he still has a year of his contract to run.

That is likely to be Waite's recommendation and it might be the best that Great Britain can do. It plays to the Australian's strengths, as a setter-up of systems and structures and leaves the sharp end on match days to Noble, who by temperament and by nationality might be more naturally suited to it.

As for today's game, Australia look as they have looked since leaving home; eminently beatable. The Kangaroos have to be given credit for their patience and method in winning two Tests which could so easily have been lost, but they have noticeably turned down the heat this week, with their players being left to their own devices for several days.

Underestimating those players is an easy trap to fall into, but never in his wildest dreams can Mick Crocker, an unsung utility player, have expected to play at stand-off for his country in an Ashes Test.

Nor can the 34-year-old Darren Smith have foreseen becoming the first British-based player to be drafted into a Test side during a tour, four years after his last cap and following a season with St Helens which was not eye-catching enough to win him a new contract at Knowsley Road.

Great Britain have a new pair of centres in Martin Gleeson and Lee Gilmour and a third, Wakefield's Gareth Ellis, on the bench waiting to make his Test debut.

It would have been a bolder and more forward-looking selection if he had been named to start, along perhaps with a couple of the other young fringe players who have not had the chance to show what they can do.

It is, after all, an evening for looking forward, rather than dwelling on how on earth the two previous matches were lost.

* London Broncos have signed the Salford hooker, David Highton. The Hull KR coach, Steven Linnane, has resigned to return home to Australia for family reasons. Featherstone Rovers have signed back-row forward Richard Blakeway from Castleford on loan.

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