Rugby League: Gardner takes leave of Sheffield

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BILL GARDNER has been pushed out of the nest at Sheffield Eagles ahead of schedule after a run of five defeats, writes Dave Hadfield.

The Australian coach, destined to leave the club midway through a two-year contract to take control at the newly formed Queensland Crushers, has been replaced on a temporary basis by the club's chairman, Gary Hetherington, who coached the side for seven years until Gardner's arrival last summer.

In a statement yesterday, Hetherington, who founded the club a decade ago, said: 'Bill has brought in new ideas and methods which will benefit the Eagles in the long term. He is a good coach despite results this season, but a change had to be made in the best interests of the club.'

Hetherington's return to coaching, which starts with Eagles' First Division match against Leeds on Sunday, is a short-term measure. The Eagles will hunt for a coach to be in place for the start of next season.

Billy McGinty, who had a knee reconstruction earlier this year, will play his first game for nine months in Wigan's reserve side against Halifax tomorrow night. Paul Atcheson also makes his comeback in the same match.

Martin Offiah is now rated doubtful for Wigan's Regal Trophy tie at Oldham on Sunday, although Jason Robinson could be fit to replace him after recovering from a dislocated shoulder.