Rugby league: Gateshead brought into Super League

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GATESHEAD WILL be Super League's new blood next season, following the decision yesterday to allow them into the competition.

The new franchise in the North-east was given the go-ahead after confirming financial guarantees and the backing of the local council.

"I'm not an excitable person, but I'm absolutely delighted," said Kath Hetherington, the co-founder of Sheffield Eagles, who, along with the Australian, Shane Richardson, has been the driving force behind this bid.

"I'm convinced that it will be a success," she said. "Our ambition has to be to draw the crowds in next season."

Gateshead hope to be able to name their coach later this week, with St Helens' Shaun McRae the favourite, but Richardson's long-time associate, the Cronulla and Australia coach, John Lang, may be in the frame.

"Shane already had his flights booked to go around Australia and sign up various players he has been talking to," Hetherington said.

It looks unlikely, though, that the controversial forward, Solomon Haumono, will be among them. Haumono, sacked by Canterbury for flying off to Britain to be with his girlfriend, was lined up to join Cardiff if they had won a franchise, but was passed on to Gateshead when the Welsh bid failed.

"I don't think we will be signing him," Hetherington said. "We are looking for the right sort of character. People who really want to play for the team."

Nor are Gateshead likely to take up the former Huddersfield player-coach, Garry Schofield, on his offer to play for them.

Gateshead International Stadium must be improved to include 6,000 seats under cover in time for next season and the club must also create press, television and drug-testing facilities, but none of those requirements are expected to be an obstacle.

"We are delighted to welcome a new member to the Super League family," said the organisation's chairman, Chris Caisley. "The financial guarantees we were looking for have been provided and Gateshead Council have confirmed their long-term commitment."

Gateshead will get around pounds 500,000 in their first season from Super League's kitty of money from News Limited. That will rise to the same level as other clubs in subsequent seasons.

The Wigan coach, John Monie, has agreed a new, one-year contract that will keep him at the club until December 1999 and he hinted yesterday that there could be more to come. "I'm delighted to be staying for at least another 12 months," he said.

Wigan's chief executive, Phil Clarke, said that Monie's second spell in charge at Central Park had "brought discipline to the club, on and off the pitch."

The Salford coach, Andy Gregory, faces double trouble over his confrontational approach to officials. The Rugby League has received a report from the referee Karl Kirkpatrick over alleged remarks after the game against Leeds last week.

Gregory is already due to appear on 25 August over the non-payment of a pounds 1,000 fine that was imposed when he was banned from the touchline earlier this season. The former Great Britain scrum-half could now be suspended.

The club's chairman, John Wilkinson, has stood loyally by Gregory through his various clashes with authority, but even his patience could run out, especially in the light of Salford's poor form this season.

Castleford have signed the Parramatta's Aaron Raper, the younger brother of their coach, Stuart. The hooker, who played for Australia against South Africa in the 1995 World Cup and has represented New South Wales, will arrive for pre-season training and play for Cas in 1999.

The club has denied reports that it has also enlisted the Melbourne and former Perth three-quarter, Paul Bell.