Rugby League: Hanley made head coach: Reilly's successor

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The Independent Online
ELLERY HANLEY has been named Great Britain's head coach for the season, starting with the Test series against Australia this autumn. Hanley's appointment fills the gap left by Malcolm Reilly, who resigned because of his commitment to join the Australian club, Newcastle Knights.

The outstanding British player of the modern era has not ruled out adding to his 36 Test caps. 'You can never not consider something,' he said. 'But it would be a wild card if I came out of international retirement. I think we have enough personnel to do the job that's in front of us.'

Hanley is still the lynchpin of Leeds' side, and his form has shown no sign of deteriorating since he retired from Tests 18 months ago. His immediate concern, however, will be to prepare other players to face the Australians - something he has less than eight weeks to do. Hanley's legendary single-mindedness will be his prime asset as he works towards the first Test at Wembley on 22 October.

'I've always wanted to be a success in everything I've done and nothing will change.' he said. 'But no coach knows everything and I've had the advantage of listening to a lot of wisdom from coaches like Doug Laughton, Graham Lowe, John Monie and, going right back, Peter Fox.'

Lowe, once Hanley's coach at Wigan, is still likely to figure in Britain's plans; a manager and assistant coach will be announced later this week.

Lowe's candidature is complicated by health problems - he is undergoing heart surgery this week - and the fact that he is a New Zealander. The eagerness of the League's board of directors to have him involved was a major factor in Phil Larder's absence from yesterday's announcement.

Reilly's former assistant was the favourite for the top job, but would have wanted to select his own back-up team, in which he would happily have included Hanley but not an overseas coach like Lowe.

The League's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, was not inclined to look at what might have been. 'Ellery was the unanimous choice of the board,' he said. 'He has leadership qualities that I have been privileged to see in action. Against Australia we are going to need strength, determination and resolve.'

Nobody who has followed Hanley's career could disagree with any of that, but, as many a great player has found out, the transition into coaching can be problematic. His commitments at Leeds will make it difficult for him to monitor the form of players at other clubs, which is all the more reason to finalise his back-up team quickly.

Progress was made on one front, though, with Hanley's declared willingness to 'bury the hatchet' with the press. There was momentary concern about where he might want to bury it, but the need for a truce was understood on both sides.

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