Rugby League: Fittler fits bill for ambitious Wigan

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The Independent Online
The scale of Wigan's recruitment ambitions in Australia is raising fears that the League's salary cap could be smashed before it is even in place.

The club's chief executive, Phil Clarke, has flown to Australia to try to speed up the signing of the Test winger, Wendell Sailor. Wigan hope to get him released by the Brisbane Broncos to play for them this year, which could cost them an extra pounds 200,000 on top of the pounds 500,000 they have already committed to the deal for 1999 and 2000.

Clarke is also going to use his connections in Australia to sound out other leading players about coming to Britain. Wigan have already talked about the outside possibility of recruiting the world's best player, Laurie Daley, and rumours now link them with the only stand-off of comparable class, Brad Fittler.

Clarke played alongside Fittler for Sydney City, but a more serious target for Wigan could be Sailor's Brisbane tram-mate, Gorden Tallis, who made a huge impact from the second row in last November's Test series in Britain.

Wigan, like other clubs, will be told soon exactly how much they can spend on players' salaries. But their Super League rivals are frankly sceptical that they can get under their limit.

Darryl Van de Velde, the Warrington coach, is among those to declare that the system is being reduced to a mockery before it is even introduced formally.

"A number of clubs have spoken to us about it," said the League's spokesman, Peter Rowe. "We have mentioned it to the finance department and they are monitoring the situation closely."

The League can refuse to register signings that take a club over its salary cap - and simply spending money provided by a benefactor, such as Wigan's Dave Whelan, will not avert that threat. Under the terms of the salary cap, only 50 per cent of any extra income can be spent on players.

The position will be complicated by the fact that clubs' caps will be policed not by Super League, but by the Rugby Football League, and the two organisations are increasingly developing separate lives of their own. Super League Europe is to move out of the Leeds headquarters it shares with the RFL and into new offices in the city centre.

St Helens' 18-year-old winger, Tony Stewart, has been given a full-time contract by the club. Jason Flowers and Richard Russell have agreed new, one-year deals at Castleford and the former Great Britain scrum-half, Deryck Fox, has moved from Featherstone to Batley on a free transfer.

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