Rugby League: Goodway and Hanley collide

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The Independent Online
GAMES BETWEEN St Helens and Wigan need little artificial seasoning, but tomorrow's at Knowsley Road is more highly spiced than ever thanks to the collision of two former team-mates. Ellery Hanley and Andy Goodway were part of the most dominant Wigan team of all - the one that John Monie inherited and moulded into near invulnerability 10 years ago.

Monie's second stint in charge ended with the sack this week, leaving Goodway in charge at a pivotal stage of the season. He could not have a more demanding start, because defeat would leave a place in the top three for the play-offs at the end of the season looking like a distant prospect.

Goodway has been given one potential fillip by being able to add Andy Farrell to his squad for the game. The Wigan captain has been out of action for the last four games with an ankle injury, but will play at St Helens unless he suffers a reaction in training.

Hanley's response to last week's defeat at Gateshead, which saw Saints lose top spot for the first time this season, has been in character. He has banned his players from talking to the media so that they can focus entirely on the job ahead.

It might make them tear their hair out at Super League headquarters, in the upstairs offices at Knowsley Road and anywhere else where they have the responsibility for promoting the code, but it might also presage the sort of performance with which Saints bounced back at Castleford from their only other defeat of the season, by Wakefield.

Although he will not name his team before the match, Hanley has Kevin Iro, Paul Newlove, Keiron Cunningham and Sonny Nickle all fit despite knocks at Gateshead. Anthony Sullivan and Vila Matautia are both due to return after prolonged absences, leaving just Paul Sculthorpe missing from Saints' strongest line-up.

The Gateshead and former St Helens coach, Shaun McRae, said after last week's game that the Thunder were capable of winning Super League in their inaugural season. That might be pitching it a little high, but they will underline their top-five credentials if they can beat Wakefield.

Andrew Hick, Ben Sammut and Danny McAllister are all fit to resume for Gateshead, but their new hooker, Mick Jenkins, is likely to retain his place after an impressive debut.

This is the start of a crucial period for Hull. Starting with London today, the league's bottom side play the four teams directly above them in the table in their next four games. London have Shaun Edwards back for this one and may, depending on the fitness of Tulsen Tollett, also recall Martin Offiah.

Two of the other strugglers meet at Huddersfield, where Sheffield are the visitors, while Warrington host Salford.

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