RUGBY LEAGUE: Holliday to ease Swinton plight

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The Independent Online
THE SWINTON coach, Les Holliday, is to make a playing comeback at the age of 37, because of his club's injury crisis. The former Great Britain loose forward, who last played - in similar circumstances - over two years ago, is to turn out in the Alliance fixture against Batley tomorrow night and then consider whether to pick himself for Swinton's next first- team match, against Bramley on 7 March.

"I'm going to have a go and see how I feel," said Holliday, who spent most of his career with Widnes and Halifax, as well as representing his country three times. "I've kept myself pretty fit and it could be that I'll be able to help the young lads more out on the pitch than I can from the sidelines."

Swinton have six first-team players ruled out with long-term injuries and their results, including a 78-4 thrashing by Huddersfield in the Challenge Cup and a 22-18 defeat in the Northern Ford Premiership at Doncaster, last season's bottom club, on Sunday, have reflected the strain on their resources.

"Garry Schofield was an inspiration to me with the way he played for Doncaster against us," Holliday said. "He played with his head and never got his shorts dirty. If he can still do it, perhaps I can."

Holliday's willingness to get the boots out of the attic underlines his determination to continue at Swinton, despite their dismal start to the season. "If I threw the towel in, it would show a complete lack of leadershup qualities," he said.

He also has the backing of the club's chief executive, Tony Barrow. "We aren't going to panic after losing a couple of games," he said. "That would be stupid."

Super League has brought in some extra income with the sale of television rights for the next two seasons to Fox Sports in Australia. Matches will be shown throughout Australia every week during the season. Coming on top of a deal to screen matches in Francophone Europe and North Africa via the AB Sports channel in Paris, the deal shows the potential for extra income and exposure now that the competition controls its own rights.

Announcements of contracts covering other areas of the world are expected before the launch of the fourth season of Super League on 5 March, and a deal for a magazine-style programme to be shown on the BBC is also nearing fruition.

Michael Smith, the New Zealander sacked by Hull after allegedly drinking in a night club until the early hours before playing in their Challenge Cup tie at Castleford, is appealing against the club's decision.

Smith, who claims not to have had a drink all night, has called in the Rugby League Players' Association to represent him.

His alleged misdeeds pale into insignificance alongside events in Australia, where North Sydney have fined four players a total of almost pounds 30,000 after a brawl in a nightclub. And Julian O'Neill, already kicked out by a series of clubs including the London Broncos, faces a similar fate at South Sydney after incidents that followed a pre-season game in Dubbo.

The stories have damaged the image of the game in Australia at a time when it is hoping for a world record crowd for the double-header that will open Sydney's Olympic Stadium in two weeks' time.

Gateshead's latest Australian recruits, Brett Grogan and Danny Lee, get their chance to stake a claim for a Super League starting place when the new club plays its second and last friendly, at Hunslet tomorrow.