Rugby League: Harris open to Goodway's wiles

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The Independent Online
IESTYN HARRIS collected one of the season's most prestigious awards yesterday and declared himself happy to play whatever role the Great Britain coach, Andy Goodway, has in mind for him in the Test series against New Zealand.

The Leeds captain was the clear winner of the Tesco/Ruby League Writers Association Player of the Year Award - a fair reflection of his outstanding form for his club. But Harris knows that he is far from certain of a starting spot in the team against the Kiwis.

"I'd like to play stand-off, because I think I could do a really good job there," he said. "But wherever Andy Goodway picks me - full-back, stand-off or on the bench - I'll be happy to be there."

Harris, part of the Leeds side beaten at Wigan on Sunday, will be less happy if two of his most influential team-mates are not fit for the side's last chance in the final eliminator against St Helens this Sunday. Adrian Morley and Marc Glanville are struggling, with shoulder and knee injuries respectively, although Glanville's chances of been fit are rated the better.

"Adrian is probably the best forward in Britain at the moment, so it is vitally important to us to have him and Marc fit," Harris said.

A player of equal importance to St Helens, their scrum-half Sean Long, was cleared to play in the match yesterday. Long has been told that he has no case to answer over a suspected high tackle during the victory over Halifax last Friday.

Halifax, who exceeded all expectations by finishing third in Super League before being knocked out by Saints, have started their team strengthening for next season by recruiting the Salford back-row forward Craig Randall and the Swinton centre, Andy Craig.

Craig, previously with Wigan, has been released by Swinton because of financial pressures. Halifax have also made a move for two current Wigan players, the Great Britain prop Terry O'Connor and the young utility back, Darryl Cardiss.

The Rugby League Players' Association is polling its members for their opinion on the proposal for extending the Super League season to 30 games next year. Administrators at club and Super League level are adamant that more matches, including some in midweek, are necessary if the books are to be balanced next year, but players and coaches seem to be overwhelmingly against the idea.

Abi Ekoku, the recently retired Bradford centre and acting chairman of the RLPA, said that he hoped to have a clear picture of players' views before the end of the season. If they are as strongly against the extra work load as they appear to be, the association will try to block the change.

Manchester United have refused to allow the Academy Grand Final to be played as a curtain raiser to the Super League Grand Final on 24 October as planned. The club fears that the Old Trafford pitch will not be able to take two games on the day. The competition will be crammed into a tighter timetable, with Wigan meeting Hull in the elimination final tonight and the winners playing Leeds on Sunday.

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