Rugby League: Gee to prop up forward power

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The Independent Online
WARRINGTON HAVE answered their need for greater forward power by signing one of Australia's best props, Andrew Gee, on a two-year contract.

The 29-year-old front-rower has been a regular for Brisbane and Queensland and toured Papua New Guinea with Australia in 1991.

"I've watched him all his career and he's exactly what we need," said the Warrington coach, Darryl Van de Velde. "He's a great signing for us."

Gee will arrive in January for pre-season training and Van de Velde is hopeful that Allan Langer, his team-mate for club and state, will be with him.

The two players are good friends, which can only improve the chances of the Australian Test scrum-half also opting to join the Wolves.

"I'm hopeful, but it's in his hands," said Van de Velde. "We've made an offer and, although there's no time limit, we're not prepared to negotiate."

Henry Paul makes his first return to Central Park tonight, as part of a Bradford side setting a Super League pace that Wigan have struggled to keep up with.

Paul moved to Odsal to join his brother, Robbie, last winter and has been a key figure in making Bradford, seven points clear at the top, favourites to succeed Wigan as champions.

"Henry is just the type who loves playing and that shows through," said the Wigan coach, Andy Goodway. "He takes a lot of pressure off his brother, who had been expected to always produce something on his own, and off James Lowes.

"I was disappointed when he left Wigan, because you don't like to lose players of that ability, but he had made his mind up that he wanted to go."

The elder Paul has had little reason to regret that decision, his unpredictability having added a new dimension to the Bulls' play as they have put a 10- point gap between themselves and fourth-placed Wigan.

"It's a crucial game for both teams," said Goodway. "Bradford want to hold on to their lead at the top, while we are still trying for third place."

Even more significantly, defeat tonight would leave Wigan in danger of being caught by some combination of Castleford, Gateshead and Warrington and - horror of horrors - missing out on the play-offs.

They must battle against that unthinkable outcome without the help of Greg Florimo, who, contrary to his own and the club's initial diagnosis, turns out to have broken his thumb at Huddersfield on Sunday.

The Australian stand-off will have the injury pinned and will be out for five or six weeks, leaving Tony Smith and Gavin Clinch to try to forge a half-back partnership which has not, so far, looked made in heaven.

Smith must try to keep tabs on his half-back partner of last season, even Paul he starts this match at loose forward. He has the advantage of knowing his opponent's style as well as anyone, but Paul is one of the breed of sportsmen who operates on the instinct that, if he does not know what he will do, then the other side is hardly likely to.

Wigan, who have allowed Andy Johnson to go to Huddersfield on loan, will also be missing Simon Haughton for the forseeable future, his thigh injury stubbornly refusing to clear up, while Bradford expect to be without Stuart Spruce and Steve McNamara.

The latest Leeds starlet, the 16-year-old centre, Chev Walker, is in line for his first team debut at Halifax tonight after being named among the substitutes.

Clubs from the Northern Ford Premiership will meet today to decide whether to make a partial return to winter rugby by starting next season on Boxing Day or even at the start of December.