Rugby League: Broncos close to Offiah deal

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The Independent Online
The London Broncos hope to announce today that Martin Offiah, the capital's most celebrated rugby league player, has signed for them and will play against St Helens tomorrow.

London are close to agreeing a fee with Wigan, who made the initial approach about a possible deal, and are prepared for Offiah, who left Rosslyn Park as an unsung 21-year-old, to play rugby union in the winter. "That is not a problem," said the Broncos' chairman, Barry Maranta. "Nor do I think that the fee is going to get in the way of the deal and we are planning to have him in the side against Saints."

Offiah became league's most expensive player when Wigan signed him from Widnes for pounds 440,000 in 1992. "He is an icon in professional rugby," Maranta said. "He would be the personality that could provide a focus for what we are trying to do here and give us the profile we need. It has been well-known for a while that we have been looking for a London player and that must be why Wigan thought the time was right to contact us."

The willingness to lose Offiah is another sign of how tight times have become at the game's dominant club. They have already shed Scott Quinnell and, this week, Shem Tatupu. Both have moved back to rugby union and transferring Offiah would take a huge slice out of Wigan's crippling wage bill.

"Obviously it is a big blow, because he is a great, great player," the Wigan coach, Graeme West, said. "But we have had the best part of him and he is coming to the twilight of his career." Offiah, now aged 29, has scored over 400 tries in his career, including the joint Wigan record of 10 in a match.

The man who shares that record, Shaun Edwards, has given a strong hint of further problems within the camp by declaring himself unfit for the second successive match, when Wigan play Halifax tonight.

Edwards has a niggling knee injury, but is also understood to be unhappy with his role in West's current plans. Craig Murdock continues at scrum- half in a match Wigan must win to maintain the pressure on St Helens at the top of the table.

Keighley Cougars' loose forward, Martin Wood, has asked for a transfer within hours of the announcement that the Great Britain and England coach Phil Larder's contract is not being renewed at the end of the season.

Oldham Bears have signed 22-year-old London Broncos hooker Paul Stevens on loan.