Rugby League: Goulding ban strands Saints

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The Independent Online
The St Helens scrum-half and captain, Bobbie Goulding, has been hammered with an eight-game suspension that means that his club must try to reach Wembley without him.

Goulding was sent off during last Saturday's Silk Cut Challenge Cup fourth- round victory over Wigan at Knowsley Road for a high tackle on Neil Cowie. A disciplinary committee meeting in Leeds yesterday took a dim view of both the tackle and Goulding's previous record, hitting him with one of the heaviest bans imposed for foul play in recent times.

Saints are considering an appeal and Goulding himself could only say: "I'm devastated."

Should Saints reach Wembley, where they beat Bradford Bulls to win the Cup last year, Goulding will not be clear to play until the week before the final.

His suspension also means that he will miss the early rounds of the Super League season, leaving Saints, who have no experienced specialist in the position with whom to replace him, in a real quandary.

Goulding this week withdrew a transfer request and said that he wanted to stay with Saints, but this ban means that he will be doing so in a non-playing capacity until the end ofApril. A League sub-committee is today considering whether other players who joined the brawl after Goulding's tackle should also be punished.

The Batley prop, Steve Walker, has also been heavily punished for his sending-off in the tie against Paris St-Germain. He has been suspended for six games.

Wigan are resigned to losing Va'aiga Tuigamala, who is set to join Newcastle for pounds 500,000. Jack Robinson, the Wigan chairman, met with the unsettled player yesterday and further talks are planned for today.