Rugby League: Hanley denies transfer claims

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ELLERY HANLEY'S confrontation with St Helens has entered even murkier territory with the suspended coach's categorical denial that he initiated the transfer deals attributed to him by the club's football executive, Eric Hughes.

After Hanley was suspended on Monday following his criticism of the St Helens board, Hughes said that the coach had wanted to swap Keiron Cunningham for Richard Pachniuk and Tommy Martyn for Graham Holroyd - two transactions that would horrify Saints fans.

But in a statement issued through his solicitor yesterday, Hanley called those claims "completely and utterly fictitious" and demanded a retraction. "I am astounded such comments could be made and the suggested transactions are so far from the truth that they can only have been put forward by Mr Hughes to cause a rift between myself and the players," he said.

But Hughes refused to back down yesterday. "I stand by everything I said," he said.

Halifax's England hooker, Paul Rowley, has been ordered to stay away from first-team training by their coach, Gary Mercer, and told that he will be put on the transfer list. Rowley, who missed last weekend's match at Wigan with a damaged toe, is training on his own whilst he waits for his future to be resolved.

"I would have played if I wasn't injured," he said. "I've always given 100 per cent and they should show me some respect now by not standing in my way. I've a lot of friends at Halifax, but I feel now that I've got to get out of the place."

Rowley will join a drain of talent from Halifax since they encountered financial problems last month. The club captain, Kelvin Skerrett, is unwilling to play for them on reduced terms and three players - Gavin Clinch, Chris Chester and, from next season, David Hodgson - have been snapped up by Wigan, who could now be the favourites to sign Rowley as well.

The Central Park side have admitted defeat in their attempts to sign the Brisbane and Australian Test centre, Steve Renouf, who has recently retired from representative rugby and whose contract at the Broncos ends this year. "He has four children and he really doesn't want the disruption of leaving Australia," said a Wigan spokesman.