Wigan look to extend advantage

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The Independent Online

The stakes are high at the JJB Stadium tomorrow night, with Bradford knowing they cannot finish top of Super League unless they beat Wigan for the first time this season.

The stakes are high at the JJB Stadium tomorrow night, with Bradford knowing they cannot finish top of Super League unless they beat Wigan for the first time this season.

A record crowd is expected to see whether Wigan, with a win and a draw to their credit so far, can increase the mathematical and psychological advantage they could take with them into the play-offs.

"To finish top of the tree would send out a good message to everyone," said Wigan's captain, Andy Farrell. "It means you've been the best team over the year and it's up to the others to knock you off."

Wigan are not getting too excited about the fact that the Bulls will be without Robbie Paul. He is a player that the Wigan coach, Frank Endacott, has picked regularly for his New Zealand sides, but he does not expect Bradford to be weakened by the inclusion of the Wigan-born Paul Deacon.

"He has played very well alongside Henry Paul and I don't think they lose a lot there," Endacott said. Apart from the elder Paul, Bradford will recall another former Wigan player, Scott Naylor, who was rested last week.

St Helens will gain ground on at least one of the sides above them if they beat Salford. Paul Newlove is expected to return after hamstring and calf injuries, but Kevin Iro is struggling with his ankle.

Victory at Halifax tomorrow for Castleford, who this week re-signed their hooker, Aaron Raper, for next season, would make their place in the play-offs mathematically certain.

Huddersfield-Sheffield's new coach, Tony Smith, is still waiting for his work permit and will continue his watching brief against Cas' nearest challengers, Hull, with several younger players due to get a chance to impress.

Graham Murray will complete a remarkable double if his Sydney City side can beat the Brisbane Broncos to win the National Rugby League Grand Final tomorrow.

Murray coached Leeds to the Challenge Cup last year - their first major trophy in 20 years. The wait for the Roosters has been even longer; their last Premiership was in 1975.

The two clubs shared a reputation as comfortable places for under-achievers, but Murray's arrival changed that. The Roosters have shown a new steel in this year's play-offs, although they will hope that Luke Ricketson is fit to play in a match which will be Adrian Lam's last before leaving for Wigan.

Peter Deakin has resigned as chief executive of Warrington, two days after the planning decision that brought him closer to his dream of a new stadium shared with rugby union club, Sale. Deakin, previously the driving force behind Bradford and Saracens, has gone after meeting internal opposition to his blueprint.

He is now expected to re-emerge as chief executive at Sale, where he has already been working part-time.

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