Kiwi trio pay price in cost cutting

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Rugby League

Featherstone Rovers have cancelled the contracts of their three overseas players as an economy measure. The New Zealanders Damien Mackie, Brett Rodger and Simon Angell have all been told that they are being released, because the club cannot afford to pay them.

"They are lovely lads. In fact, I wish we had a full team like them," Featherstone's football chairman, Trevor Morris, said. "But it's a sad fact that this is a matter of financial necessity. All our budgets went out of the window, because our gates fell from 3,000 to 1,500 during the centenary season and now we have to put our finances in order."

Featherstone have already announced that their two most saleable players, Steve Molloy and Martin Pearson, are available for transfer, but only in straight cash deals. They have rejected a player exchange offer from Leeds for Pearson.

Another effect of their cash crisis is that a merger with Wakefield Trinity is back on the agenda, at least as far as some committee members at Featherstone are concerned. "If we want to be the force that we have been in the past, it has to be on the agenda," Morris said.

The club will also be urging a meeting of First and Second Division clubs next month to take concerted action to reduce costs. "We have all got to agree that we are not going to over-pay players," Morris said.

The Keighley centre, Nick Pinkney, has been ruled out of the World Nines, which began in Fiji today, by a severe stomach virus. Pinkney will fly home as soon as possible, but it is too late to send out a replacement, so England will have to manage with a squad of 14 during the three-day tournament.

"Obviously it is a blow to lose Nick, but we are confident of turning in good performances," the England captain, Andy Farrell, said. "The greatest difficulty we are going to face is the climate. We have come from snow- storms in England to temperatures topping 100 degrees."

Halifax's hopes in their Silk Cut Challenge Cup quarter-final against Leeds on Sunday hinge to a large extent on today's disciplinary committee. The Test winger, John Bentley, has been called before the hearing for a high tackle. Also appearing are the Samoan full-back Mike Umaga and Sheffield's Mark Gamson over their part in the subsequent brawl. Now Michael Jackson has been cited by Sheffield for alleged use of the forearm.

Oldham have put nine players, including first-team regulars Ian Sherratt and Wally Gibson, on the transfer list, while Sale have confirmed that John Devereux is to become the first player to be shared between the two codes. The Welsh dual international will play union for Sale during the gap between league seasons at Widnes.