Rugby League: Hull rivals live to fight again

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The Independent Online
THERE WILL be echoes of the great Humberside battles of the past when Hull and Hull Kingston Rovers meet in the first round of the Yorkshire Cup tomorrow.

The city's two clubs have been through hard times since the early 1980s, when they dominated the British game. Financial crises have chipped away at their foundations, but not at the special rivalry between them - a rivalry which makes a nonsense of outsiders' suggestions that they would be better putting all their debts into one basket and moving in together.

For Rovers, the struggle for survival has meant scrapping all contract payments, leaving them without their brightest star, Graham Hallas, in tomorrow's side, several other members of which are also on the transfer list. It has been the achievement of their coach, George Fairbairn, to maintain team spirit under these circumstances, and that will be Hull KR's main strength at The Boulevard.

Although Hull have been as deeply in the financial mire, they are still capable of the grand gesture. They may have failed to sign Deryck Fox last week, but the way they managed to raise pounds 40,000 to finance the bid spoke eloquently of the ambition that burns at the club and the affection it still commands.

Much of the money came from local firms, but some from smaller benefactors. 'We had children coming in to give us their pocket money,' the Hull chairman, Stephen Watson, said. 'When I saw that, I knew we had to leave no stone unturned.'

Since the failure of that bid, Hull have also tried to sign Hallas and Watson said there were 'other irons in the fire'. With two new Australian signings, James Grant and Ivan Henjak, still detained in Sydney, the versatile Rob Nolan will continue at scrum-half.

Elsewhere, the first round of the much-maligned county cups has produced few eye-catching ties. If there is to be an upset, it could be at the Watersheddings, where Oldham fancy their chances against First Division Warrington.

Peter Tunks, the Oldham coach, said: 'It will show us how far we have come, or how far we have still to go to become a First Division side.' Two of his steady stream of new signings, Se'e Solomona and Ben Olsen, are promoted from substitute to the pack, while Warrington give Kevin Ellis his first game of the season.

The Rugby League does not propose to respond to the British Amateur Rugby League Association's threat of legal action if a joint committee of the two bodies does not meet to discuss the future of youth rugby.

BARLA said it would take out an injunction preventing further RFL involvement in the amateur game, while the RFL no longer recognises BARLA. David Howes, the RFL's spokesman, said it would not even consider a meeting until BARLA rescinds measures imposed this summer, especially the clause that professionalises young players who appear in the RFL's Academy League.