Rugby League: Blackmore doubt forces Leeds to spend

THE WINNERS of the Silk Cup Challenge Cup, Leeds, are ready to enter the transfer market after conceding that their New Zealand Test centre, Richie Blackmore, might not play for them again this season, writes Dave Hadfield.

Blackmore played at Wembley on Saturday - his first game since the semi- final five weeks earlier - but, to nobody's surprise, and certainly not his own, suffered a recurrence of the pubic muscle injury.

"It's a source of great concern to us," admitted the Leeds chief executive, Gary Hetherington, who added that the club was now prepared to buy in order to avoid losing any more ground in Super League. Their fourth defeat of the season, at St Helens on Tuesday night, leaves them eight points off the lead. "We will leave no stone unturned to bring in quality players," said Hetherington, "but it can be very difficult in mid-season."

There must be doubts now about the long-term future of Blackmore, who is contracted until the end of next season.

Hetherington also said that there are no fewer than 12 candidates for the Leeds coaching job that Graham Murray will vacate at the end of this season, including those he spoke to on his recent trip to Australia. He plans to reduce that to a shortlist of four by the end of the month.

Huddersfield, without a main sponsor so far this season, have filled that gap by reaching an agreement for the rest of the 1999 season with the financial services group, Skandia.

By contrast, their neighbours, Halifax, were yesterday facing a winding- up order from the Inland Revenue over an unpaid tax bill of pounds 150,000.

The club said that it had been experiencing cash-flow problems because of its failure to sell its former ground, Thrum Hall, but paid the demand yesterday afternoon and avoided a High Court appearance next month.

Castleford have signed the former Hull and Workington forward Brad Hepi on a short-term contract. Hepi has been playing for Rochdale Hornets.

Greg Florimo, the Wigan stand-off, has been cleared of any serious ankle damage despite sitting out the second half at Salford on Monday. He is expected to be fit for his side's home game against Gateshead on Sunday, along with Simon Haughton, who has been out with a shoulder injury.

The Bradford Bulls prop Paul Anderson has been banned for two matches after being sent off for wreckless use of the forearm in Monday's match at Castleford.

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