Rugby League: Gallagher joins Crusaders in attempt to revive fortunes: Former All Black returns to roots

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THE former All Black, John Gallagher, whose previous reputation as one of the world's best rugby union players has lain heavily on his shoulders during three frustrating years at Leeds, is going back to his home city to revive his rugby league career.

Gallagher yesterday signed a three- year contract with the London Crusaders, bringing to an end one of the least successful cross-code moves in recent memory.

He signed a five-year deal with Leeds reputed to be worth pounds 350,0000 in May 1990 and his new career progressed in steady style until a spear tackle at St Helens seemed to rob him of all confidence. His last two seasons at Leeds included only occasional outings in the first team.

'The new coach (Doug Laughton) didn't rate me as highly,' said Gallagher. 'I don't regret turning professional and, apart from reviving my career, this move gives me the chance to come home.'

Gallagher was born in London and lived and played there without making any great impression, until leaving at 20 for New Zealand and a remarkable transformation into an outstanding international full-back.

His new coach, the former New Zealand coach, Tony Gordon, said that he will use Gallagher as a centre but not as a goalkicker. 'We are now building a squad that is capable of promotion, and John's experience will help us to carry on our improvement,' he said.

The Crusaders also announced yesterday that they have signed the New Zealand Test player, Sam Stewart. Stewart, a 29-year-old second-row forward, will captain the club when he arrives in August and they begin the new season at their new ground, the Copthall Stadium in Hendon.

One of London's opponents in next season's Second Division, Rochdale Hornets, have only two members of last season's first-team squad in training. Other players are unhappy about the scrapping of contract payments and 10 are on the transfer list.