Leeds 'fearful' of losing Hanley

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The Independent Online
Leeds are resigned to losing their captain and Great Britain coach, Ellery Hanley. "We are still hopeful, but increasingly fearful that he will be going to Australia," said Alf Davies, the chief executive of Leeds.

Leeds are unable to match the lucrative two-year deal, thought to be worth more than £500,000, offered by the Australian Rugby League. An announcement is expected to come later this week that Hanley is to join the Illawarra Steelers as player-coach.

Illawarra are one of the clubs loyal to the Australian Rugby League in their battle with Rupert Murdoch's Super League for control of the game, and they have a gap for Hanley after sacking their coach, Graham Murray, for recruiting for Murdoch.

The signing of Hanley will bolster the credibility of the ARL in its rearguard action, and there must be a fear of other players following such an influential figure. It is understood, however, that he has been signed as a player and a coach - not specifically to recruit others.

Hanley, aged 34, has previously played in Australia with Balmain and Western Suburbs. Apart from the loss to Leeds of a vital player, his departure will leave England looking for a new coach for the Centenary World Cup in October.

Both Leeds and Hanley may feel that the Rugby League and Murdoch's company, News Limited, have not tried as hard to retain him as they have some Wigan players. Hanley had words to that effect with Maurice Lindsay, the League's chief executive, as he collected his loser's medal at Wembley on Saturday.

Ironically, a British Super League club lost a player yesterday to a Super League club in Australia. The Wales and Great Britain centre, Allan Bateman of Warrington, has joined Cronulla on a two-year contract. Meanwhile, Widnes have started their battle to reclaim a Super League place by issuing an injunction against the Rugby League.

Two Wigan players, Denis Betts and Va'aiga Tuigamala, are in the running for the Stones First Division Player of the Year Award, along with Bobby Goulding of St Helens. The Second Division champions, Keighley, have two contenders in their section - Nick Pinkney and Steve Hall compete with Glen Tomlinson of Batley.

n A Women's Referees' Association has been set up to encourage their progress in the game. There are currently eight female referees.