Wigan defeat speeds Raper's departure

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The Independent Online

Wigan will reveal today that their coach, Stuart Raper, who announced last week that he is leaving at the end of the season, is instead departing with immediate effect.

Raper, who has won the Challenge Cup and taken Wigan to a Super League grand final in his two years in charge, had already said that he was to return to Australia this autumn for family reasons. But since then, Wigan have lost another game, at home to Widnes on Saturday, and he has effectively been pushed out of the door early.

His assistant, Mike Gregory, will take over for the rest of the season, but the news of Raper's accelerated exit came on the same day as one of the candidates for his job, Tony Smith, turned down a new contract at Huddersfield Giants.

Smith turned down the club's offer of a contract extension for the Super League 2004 and 2005 seasons. Giants' chief executive, Ralph Rimmer, said: "Tony Smith has held talks with the club over the last few weeks during which he had sought a significant rise in the playing budget for season 2004. He aspires to a much larger playing budget than our salary cap will provide for next season."

Danny Orr's arm injury, sustained in Castleford's Super League match against Bradford at the weekend, is not as serious as first thought. It was feared Orr, who will join Wigan at the end of the season, had broken his arm but it is only a hand injury that should keep him out of action for five weeks.