Rugby League: Good news for Goodway as scrum-half Crompton has change of heart

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The Independent Online
Oldham's players have won the right to ply their trade elsewhere, giving Great Britain a boost on the eve of naming their squad to face Australia next month.

The Oldham captain, Martin Crompton, one of the only two scrum-halves in the preparatory squad that will be whittled down to 22 today, had pulled out of contention, saying that he was disillusioned with the game.

However, he has now been persuaded to make himself available again, following the decision of the liquidators yesterday to withdraw their appeal against the players' attempts to become free agents.

A tribunal which was meant to decide the issue today has been cancelled and players such as Crompton, who has interested both Salford and Halifax, Paul Davidson, who has signed registration forms for St Helens, and Paul Atcheson will be able to start careers elsewhere.

Others may discuss terms with anyone who comes to the rescue of the relegated and debt-ridden club before next season, but any revived club will have lost its most valuable assets.

Crompton is an Irish international, but unproved at the highest level. The Great Britain coach, Andy Goodway, was keen to have him available, however, because of a chronic shortage of alternatives.

With Shaun Edwards and Tony Smith both needing knee operations, Bobbie Goulding was left, when Crompton withdrew, as the only fit scrum-half in the squad.

His latest suspension means that he has not played since 24 August, a gap of almost 10 weeks to the date of the first Test at Wembley on 1 November. Nor was the turbulent Goulding in the most convincing of form before his ban, so going into a Test series without cover for him would have been unthinkable.

Without Crompton's change of heart, Goodway would have had to look outside his original squad, calling up a novice like Sean Long, Goulding's understudy at St Helens, a gifted prospect but raw.

Another club's future is in doubt, with Prescot going into administration under pressure from a brewery. The club's chairman, Geoff Fletcher, insists that Prescot have no debts and will fight for their survival.

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