Walker may join Mathers in gold rush to Australia

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The Independent Online

The England full-back, Richard Mathers, is leaving Leeds and may be followed to Australia by his team-mate Chev Walker.

Mathers, who will miss the rest of this season with a knee injury, has signed a two-year deal with the Gold Coast Titans, describing it as "the biggest decision I have ever had to make. The Rhinos is a special place, but it might be a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to sample a new lifestyle and a new challenge."

Leeds are to lose a second home-produced international, with Walker rejecting new terms. The Great Britain centre or second rower hinted yesterday that he too could be heading for Australia, even though the Gold Coast withdrew an offer earlier this year. "The Rhinos' offer was a good one and I've no interest in playing for another Super League club," he said. "But I am keen on playing in the NRL and for that reason I wanted to keep my options open."

Wigan are closer to signing the 19-year-old Canberra scrum-half, Michael Dobson, with the Rugby League backing their bid to get him a British work permit. Dobson has had a successful spell with the Catalans Dragons. "We would support any application on the basis that he has played 12 Super League matches in succession," said an RFL spokesman.

St Helens are preparing to face Dobson on Saturday. "I've got some tapes of him already," said Saints' coach, Daniel Anderson. "He's a good organising half-back, he kicks very well."

Anderson might leave his own scrum-half, Sean Long, out of the derby with a leg injury, but denied taking Wigan lightly. "Sean is a doubt and I won't risk him," he said. "But I don't have any disrespect for any team."

The game will be one of three taken in this weekend by the New Zealand coach, Brian McClennan, who is assessing his options against Great Britain at Knowsley Road on 27 June.

McClennan revealed that Stacey Jones, due to return for the Catalans this Saturday after a broken arm, will be in his side, but that Henry Paul, back for Harlequins, will not be.

"I've got to keep the Tri-Nations and the 2008 World Cup in mind and select players who will be involved in them," he said.

Andrew Johns has turned down a plea to make a comeback for New South Wales in the first State of Origin game today, in place of the injured Craig Gower.

The young forward Brett Ferres has agreed a two-year deal with Bradford.