Rugby League: Ban means a delayed start for Bradbury

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DAVID BRADBURY, Salford's back-row forward will make a late start to next season - but not as late as some would have liked or he might have feared.

Bradbury, a Great Britain tourist in 1986, has been suspended for five matches after being sent off for using a fore-arm to the jaw of Bradford's Harvey Howard on Sunday.

Since Salford's season is over, the ban will come into operation for Challenge Cup ties and Super League matches at the start of next season but its severity is less than many had predicted.

Although fears that Howard's jaw was broken have since been allayed, Bradbury's record was not good. He was suspended for seven months in 1995 after breaking the jaw of Castleford's Lee Harland while playing for Oldham and was placed on report for another tackle immediately before his dismissal on Sunday.

Matthew Elliott, the Bradford coach, took the unusual step of putting out a public statement condemning Bradbury's behaviour, something for which he was criticised by the Salford chairman, John Wilkinson.

The Bradford chairman, Chris Caisley, responded to yesterday's lenient sentence by calling for a fixed tariff for various offences. "An elbow to the jaw is the most violent of offences and should be treated as such," he said. "The game has to be very careful that it doesn't allow the return of thuggery."

Howard trained yesterday despite heavy swelling and hopes to be able to play in the elimination semi-final against St Helens on Friday that Elliott says will be "the start of a new competition" for the Bulls.

The reigning champions have only limped into the play-offs in fifth position and Elliott said: "If I focused on all the adversity during the regular season, we'd have no chance on Friday night.

"It's not so much a salvage operation, more the start of a new season."

John Monie, the coach of Wigan, who have qualified in first place, believes that the new play-off concept will soon win over British fans.

"Having grown up with the top-five system, I know it's a great system," he said yesterday. "If you think you've seen desperate games this season, I can assure everyone that you haven't seen desperation until the play- offs. Once you've witnessed it, you won't want to go back to the other way."

Wigan have the weekend off, before playing Leeds or Halifax a week on Sunday in the match that leads straight to the Grand Final at Old Trafford on 24 October.

Super League's marketing director, Ian Robson, has confirmed that there will be no concessionary tickets for children for the Grand Final. "It is subject to too much abuse and we don't think that pounds 10 is an unreasonable minimum price for an event of this magnitude," he said.

New Zealand have named three players involved in the play-offs in their squad to play Australia in two Tests on 9 and 16 October, even though the game's international governing body has ruled that their clubs have the first call on them.

That would seem to rule out Wigan's Henry Paul and Richie Blackmore of Leeds, although Robbie Paul could conceivably be drafted in if the Bulls lose on Friday.

A Chinese government delegation studying the administration of sport in this country visited Rugby League headquarters in Leeds yesterday.