League changes on agenda

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The Independent Online
The game's professional clubs will debate sweeping changes in its structure a week tomorrow, writes Dave Hadfield.

The meeting of the Rugby League Council in Leeds will look at proposals which include trimming the league from 34 to 28 clubs and taking power from the RL's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay. A working party has spent months on the plans, which been leaked before the session.

The central proposal is to reduce the three divisions to two, with franchises awarded only to clubs which meet strict standards off the field, as well as on it. The working party, headed by the league's chairman, Sir Rodney Walker, lean towards 14 in the Super League and 14 in a first division below it.

The evidence of the World Club Championship, however, is that any expansion of the Super League would spread the available talent too thinly. Mergers could be again on the agenda, with amalgamated clubs often having an improved chance of winning a franchise.

The other radical proposal is that executives at the RL's headquarters in Leeds should get more autonomy. Soundings at all levels of the game revealed concern the organisation is a "one man band." Clubs could also be asked to consider a reduction in the overseas quota from six to two per club.

Auckland hooker Syd Eru today faces a disciplinary hearing over his sending- off for a high tackle at Bradford on Saturday, but Bulls' Jeff Wittenberg and Hunter's Scott Hill have been told they have no case to answer over incidents for which they were placed on report.

The Australasian Super League will today decide on the fate of two English players at hearings in Sydney. Leeds Rhinos' loose-forward Terry Newton was sent off for a "dangerous throw" on David Boughton of the Adelaide Rams in Friday night's World Club Challenge match. Newton left for the trip home with the Leeds side after the game, but will be represented in his absence by the Leeds chief executive, Gary Hetherington.

Oldham's Paul Davidson will attend in person to answer a charge of biting North Queensland Cowboy's Ian Dunemann in their Saturday night game, with the official charge one of "contrary conduct."

The referee Graham Annesley did not see the incident, but placed Davidson on report after Dunemann complained.