Rugby League: Hanley tempted by Saints

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The Independent Online
THE GAME was right to be sceptical about St Helens' denials last week that they had lined up Ellery Hanley as their new coach, because the club will today announce the arrival of the former Great Britain captain and coach on a two-year contract.

Hanley has never coached at club level, but such is his standing in the game that he counts as a major capture for Saints, who have been looking for a new coach ever since deciding that they were not renewing Shaun McRae's deal next year. Although they have made contact with other coaches, like Sheffield's John Kear and the Cronulla boss, John Lang, they have been talking to Hanley and his advisers for some weeks.

Hanley's pedigree as a player is beyond compare, both Wigan and Leeds having broken the world transfer record to acquire his services during his career. After a brief tenure as Great Britain and England coach, he ended his playing days by signing for the Australian Rugby League during the war with Super League in 1995 and joining Balmain, one of the Australian sides he had previously turned out for on a short-term contract.

Now 37, Hanley is an eager student of the game who will have revised his coaching ideas by observation in Australia over the last three years. He has always been the epitome of meticulous preparation and consistency, and it is those qualities that Saints hope his arrival will add to their traditional flair.

He does not have the easiest of acts to follow. Under McRae, Saints have experienced their most productive period of recent years, winning two Challenge Cups and the inaugural Super League championship. They are currently fourth in Super League and Hanley is expected to watch them for the first time against Halifax on Sunday.

Hanley is the second figure who can fairly be called a legend of the British game to return home this week, following Malcolm Reilly's appointment as Huddersfield's next coach.

The Wigan captain, Andy Farrell, will be the only Super League ever-present after this weekend. He is already the only player to have made the starting line-up for all 62 rounds since Super League was launched in 1996. Farrell's Wigan team-mate, Mick Cassidy, and the Sheffield Eagles captain, Paul Broadbent, have also played every match, including substitute appearances.

But Cassidy misses Wigan's game at Huddersfield on Sunday through suspension and Broadbent is out of the Eagles' match at Leeds tomorrow night with a torn calf.