Rugby League: ARL stance threatens tour for England trio

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The Independent Online
Great Britain could lose three of their leading players from this autumn's tour of the southern hemisphere because of a hard-line stance being taken by the Australian Rugby League.

Lee Jackson, who now plays for the Newcastle Knights in Australia, and the Wigan pair of Gary Connolly and Jason Robinson were named this week in the tour squad despite being under contract to the ARL, which is battling to retain control of the game in Australia. The ARL chairman, Ken Arthurson, said yesterday that neither those players nor any New Zealanders contracted to the ARL would be released for the matches between the two countries.

"We released players to play for Great Britain this year as an act of faith," Arthurson said. "We offered matches between all players from both Great Britain and New Zealand, only to have it thrown back in our face. You can only cop so much, and we have had enough."

The English League's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, promises the Australians a legal fight. "We will have to refer the matter to our own lawyers because the situation is not as simple as the Australians would have everyone believe.

"Robinson and Connolly are under contract until 1997 and 1999 respectively. Only after then should they come under the control of the ARL. I am aware that they have been paid large sums of money by the ARL, but surely no one has the right to interfere with their existing contractual arrangements, which are to play for Wigan and Great Britain," Lindsay added.

The ARL succeeded in having Robinson and Connolly withdraw from the Fiji Nines earlier this year, and another player contracted to them, the Wigan hooker Martin Hall, only played for Wales in the European Championships after receiving the ARL's permission to do so.

The First Division clubs Huddersfield, Batley and Dewsbury are having talks to merge the clubs into two new teams - a Super League side based at the McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield, and another centred around Batley and Dewsbury.

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