Rugby League: Howard's way points south

HARVEY HOWARD, the Widnes prop forward, hopes that a meeting tonight will reverse the decision not to allow him to play in Australia this summer, writes Dave Hadfield.

Howard announced that he would not play for Widnes again after they blocked a temporary move to Eastern Suburbs in Sydney, saying that they were worried about their forward strength for next season.

'It is a lucrative offer and, if Widnes stopped me going, I would not feel able to play for them in the future,' Howard said. 'It is not as though I am on a lucrative contract at Widnes - if I was I might be able to accept it.'

Howard was set to fly out last weekend, along with Richie Eyres, who has been given permission to join Canberra - and work off a six-match suspension in the process. He was also angry at being thwarted after another Widnes player, John Devereux, was allowed to play for Manly.

'The agent handling the deal has been talking to the club,' Howard added. 'The committee will be discussing it further, but he is 95 per cent certain now that I will be able to go.'

Easts, who are managed by the legendary Jack Gibson, see Howard as a replacement for their Test prop, Craig Salvatori, who is injured.

The format for the new pro- am Conference League has been finalised now that Blackpool Gladiators have decided to join the other clubs relegated from the Rugby League - Chorley and Nottingham - in the innovative competition. Hemel Hempstead, who have been playing in the Alliance competition for reserve sides, are also joining, and eight leading amateur sides will be named today to complete a 12-team league.

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