Law 'won't stop' rebel league

Andy Beckett expects the Super League to kick off next weekend after all
Click to follow
The Independent Online
SUPER LEAGUE is still planning to kick off in Australia next weekend, despite a court judgment declaring it unlawful. After a detailed reading of the 228-page verdict handed down in the Federal Court in Sydney on Friday, lawyers for the Brisbane Broncos - one of the driving forces behind the 10-team rebel league - believe it will go ahead as planned.

Formal orders will be made by the judge tomorrow, when Super League will lodge an appeal, and the Australian Rugby League is expected to apply for an injunction to stop the rebel teams playing during the appeals procedure. "I have spent hours on the phone with our lawyers in Brisbane," said Barry Maranta, the former owner of the Brisbane Broncos, who is now chairman of the club's off-shoot in London. "The appeals process will be put into place, and Super League will go ahead next Sunday."

A jubilant ARL claimed after Friday's verdict that Super League would be in contempt of court if it launched next weekend. But Maranta has said that the project "is still going full steam ahead. The only thing that can stop it is an injunction, and the judge would be in an invidious position if he granted that when an appeal had been lodged." Leading players in Australia who have signed for Super League have declared that they will not go back to the ARL. But if Super League is halted this year, Maranta does not believe that they will come to Britain in large numbers. "It would be financially disastrous for the players to come over here, because the money in Australia is so enormous," he said.

If the eight clubs trying to break away are forced to play under the ARL banner, Super League may field junior sides in that competition. Meanwhile, star players would transfer to new clubs, already registered under names like the Canberra Vikings and the Brisbane Brumbies.

Super League in Europe is to kick off on 31 March. Without its Australian sister league, however, there would be no world championship play-offs nor any British tour of Australia and New Zealand with which to bring the season to a climax. "That would be very disappointing," Maranta said. "But we will still have a competition here, and everyone will want to win it. The administration here would be skilful enough to devise an alternative play-off system."

Clive Griffiths, Wales's coach, used his country's success in the Super League Nines Trophy in Fiji yesterday to demand greater recognition in the Test arena. Wales, who were demoted to the consolation Trophy event after a narrow defeat against Papua New Guinea on the opening day, claimed a 16-6 semi-final win over Tonga before beating Western Samoa in the final, 12-8 after extra time. Griffiths said: "We were very unlucky to lose to Papua in the earlier round, and but for that last-minute try we could have been competing with the big boys in the main competition. I believe Wales should now be given the opportunity of playing full Test matches against the Pacific Nations, and perhaps even a tour of Australia."

In the main competition, a disappointing England came fourth, themselves slipping to a 15-14 defeat against Papua in the final seconds of their semi-final. In the other semi-final, Australia were surprisingly beaten by the eventual winners, New Zealand. Facing Australia in the third-place play-off, England were again heading for victory. But Australia forced the game into extra-time, and a tired England allowed Robbie Beckett to score the winning try for a 14-10 victory.