Rugby league: Edwards unhappy at being on bench

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THE Bradford Bulls' big close-season signing, Shaun Edwards, has admitted to being bitterly disappointed to have been left on the substitutes' bench for the Super League season's opener at Huddersfield tomorrow.

"I've been told it's because I missed the game against St Helens," Edwards said yesterday. "But I had a hamstring strain and I wasn't going to risk it in a fixture against Saints A team. I'm brassed off, but I've been dropped before."

Edwards' omission from the starting line-up has revived speculation that he could rejoin his original club, Wigan, but their chairman, Mike Nolan, said that there was no possibility of signing him, because they are in breach of their salary cap.

Wigan believe they have secured a new deal with their centre, Gary Connolly, that will keep him at the club until the end of the 1999 season. He would then be 28 when he takes up his contract in Australia, six months later than intended.

Although Wigan are unable to make signings, four clubs had restrictions on them eased at the Rugby League Council meeting yesterday. Warrington, Halifax, Castleford and Salford will also have money that was withheld from their allocation from News Corporation returned to them, although they must still take measures to get within the 50 per cent spending limit.

The London Broncos have been given special exemption to spend 65 per cent of their income on players' wages until they can increase their earnings.

It has cost the Rugby League over pounds 100,000, plus legal costs, to settle out of court with the Australian Rugby League over their claim that they were still owed pounds 400,000 from the 1995 World Cup.

"We are just pleased that everything is sorted out," said Ken Arthurson, who headed the Australian delegation to Britain this week. "It was action we took most reluctantly, but it was a matter of principle."

The Council also approved plans to expand the existing Second Division by up to nine new teams. Applications from amateur sides and teams outside the traditional areas have already been invited.

Bob McDermott, the chairman of the First and Second Division Association, said there had already been seven applications. "We need to expand, but we are trying to do it from the bottom rather than from the top," he said. "Someone can have a go at rugby league now without having to throw millions of pounds at it and it could be that there are one or two rugby union clubs interested in moving across."