RUGBY LEAGUE Australians offer a fortune to lure British stars

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The Independent Online
RUGBY LEAGUE

BY DAVE HADFIELD

Martin Offiah, Jason Robinson and John Devereux have joined Ellery Hanley as prime targets for Australian revenge raids after Great Britain's defection to the Super League.

Alan McColm, the agent who represents the two Wigan wingers and the Welsh back, confirmed that approaches had been made and warned that the bids would not stop there.

"I think they are limiting it to the big-name players at the moment, but it won't be long before they look further down the list," he said yesterday.

Both Leeds and the Rugby League, who have hinted that extra money could be made available by Rupert Murdoch's company, News Ltd, are trying to work out a package that would retain Hanley, the Great Britain coach, despite the lure of a reputed £200,000 offer financed by Kerry Packer as part of the backlash against Murdoch's take-over. Offiah, who has another year of his contract to run, is said to be the subject of a £1m, three- year offer.

"I think the figures are exaggerated, but I believe a number of top players will be attracted to ARL clubs," the ARL's chairman, Ken Arthurson, said. "Surely the British Rugby League didn't think that we weren't going to fight back."

Arthurson, in Britain for the meeting of the game's international board, gave another demonstration of his anger with the British League by walking out of the chief executives' meeting which opened the international board's affairs yesterday.

"We will discuss the World Cup, to which we are still committed, but we have nothing else to discuss," he said.

Keighley Cougars have carried out their threat to issue a writ against the Rugby League over their exclusion from the Super League. The Second Division champions are seeking an injunction to stop the competition going ahead, plus damages which could run into millions of pounds. I understand that a figure as high as £20m has been suggested by the club's legal advisers as the amount they stand to lose if they are kept out.

"The claim for damages seeks compensation for the losses already suffered by Keighley Cougars and the massive and irreparable damage which Keighley Cougars believes it will suffer if its unjustifiable exclusion from the Super League is maintained," the club's solicitor, Richard Cramer, said.

Proceedings have been issued against the RFL's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, its chairman, Rodney Walker, and the Bradford Northern chairman, Chris Caisley, as a representative of the Rugby League Council.

A hearing is to take place in the chancery division of the High Court in Leeds on Friday, although the League may ask for a deferral.

"The players on the coaching staff are carrying on on the basis that we are going to be in the Super League," the Keighley coach, Phil Larder, said. "I have faith in the integrity of the Rugby League and I expect us to be there."

Leeds's Challenge Cup final opponents, Wigan, name their side today, with Robinson their one significant doubt. He is out of plaster and has recovered sufficiently from a broken bone in his foot to train, but faces a searching fitness test this morning. The 19-year-old Kris Radlinski will come in if he fails it.

Oldham have taken the unusual step of fining one of their players, David Bradbury, £500 over an incident in which Lee Harland's jaw was broken in the game against Castleford last week. Bradbury was sent off and faces a disciplinary hearing on Thursday, but Castleford are also considering legal action.

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