Leeds look to their main man

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The Independent Online
It is a little early to say whether Ellery Hanley, the coach, is good news for Great Britain. But coaching Great Britain is doing no harm whatever to Ellery Hanley, the player.

In what might well be his last season, Hanley has shown no sign of losing his potency and has already achieved one remarkable milestone. His first try against Swinton last week made him only the ninth man to score 400 tries.

Should he decide to carry on for another year or two, Hanley could even become the leading English try-scorer of all time, overtaking the only two Englishmen ahead of him in the list, Alf Ellaby and Eric Batten.

Leeds's more immediate priorities, however, would make them hugely appreciative of a modest one or two tries from their captain against his old club, Wigan, at a packed Headingley this afternoon.

For all their expensive recruitment elsewhere and their belated discovery of a youth policy, Leeds remain disturbingly dependent on Hanley. They have other influential figures, and motivation will not be a problem, but it is hard to imagine anyone else as the central inspiration for the result for which the whole club yearns.

Garry Schofield is at least partially revitalised, even if his half-back partnership with Graham Holroyd has a slightly ersatz look about it, and Kevin Iro's record is one of producing the goods on the big occasion.

But for the pack to match Wigan, even without Phil Clarke, will require an inspiring performance from Hanley. "I've told everyone I don't want any other Christmas presents," says the Leeds chief executive, Alf Davies. "Beating Wigan would do me."

A Leeds victory would deny Wigan a record-breaking opening sequence of 14 wins, cut their lead to three points and allow the illusion that someone can catch them this season to be maintained at least into the New Year.