Castleford have signed Danny Ward, sacked by Leeds last month, amid fears that another of their winter recruits could be otherwise engaged. The Super League's promoted club agreed a two-year deal with the 25-year-old Great Britain prop yesterday, after hearing that Willie Manu had been convicted of assault in Sydney.
Manu has been sentenced to 200 hours of community work and Castleford hope the court will allow him to serve it in England. If not, it could be five weeks before he is able to travel, making the acquisition of Ward, an experienced Super League forward, important.
Despite his sacking for repeated disciplinary breaches at Leeds, Ward had attracted interest from Australia, another Super League club and from Hull Kingston Rovers. "I'm very pleased to have got my future sorted out and I'm looking forward to a new career with Castleford," Ward said.
The Tigers coach, Terry Matterson, said that the chance to sign a Test forward had been too good to miss. "When a good young player comes on the market you have to be interested and Danny is just such a player," he said.
Ward goes straight into Castleford's squad for their first game back in Super League, at home to Hull on Friday night. Paul Handforth has been ruled out with an ankle problem, so Ryan McGoldrick will make his debut at stand-off.
Hull are without Shayne McMenemy and Chris Chester, but give first appearances to Sid Domic and Lee Radford.
The Leeds coach, Tony Smith, has said that he will not stand in the way of Barrie McDermott making a comeback for Widnes, despite the former Great Britain prop's job on the Rhinos coaching staff.
"I've nothing against him playing again, provided it doesn't interfere with his job with us," Smith said.
McDermott retired at the end of last season at 33, but the Widnes coach, Steve McCormack, said: "He has kept himself really fit and he is still one of the best props around."
Salford's coach, Karl Harrison, claims to be so short of fit half-backs for the game at Warrington on Sunday that he is considering bringing James Lowes out of retirement. Luke Robinson, Andrew Dunemann and Stephen Myler are all unfit and Lowes, the former Great Britain hooker, played in a friendly against Swinton last week.
The St Helens captain, Paul Sculthorpe, is a doubtful starter for his side's opening fixture at Harlequins on Saturday. Sculthorpe has not played since having major knee surgery last August and his coach, Daniel Anderson, says he will not risk him if there are any lingering problems.
Wigan have extended the contract of their 18-year-old loose forward Joel Tomkins until the end of the 2008 season.Reuse content