Rugby League: Hull set for promotion

As the spotlight switches back to domestic competition this weekend, Super League is likely to get a new member and could come close to having a new champion.

The newcomers for 1998 will be Hull, provided they beat Featherstone at home this afternoon to win the First Division title and promotion.

There are no real doubts about their ability to do so and the jubilation will not be confined to The Boulevard. A Humberside team in Super League next season will add a hugely welcome extra element and, with wheelers and dealers such as Peter Tunks and Tim Wilby at the helm as chief executive and chairman respectively, life will never be dull.

Both know full well that the side will need to be extensively re-built for next season - Tunks has a figure of eight new signings in mind - but even in its unreconstructed state, it could be capable of matching the club's achievement in 1978-9 of going through a promotion season unbeaten.

The Bradford Bulls have yet to be beaten in this year's Super League and have a seven point lead to prove it but they still have second-placed Leeds to negotiate twice, starting tomorrow in a match delayed until 8pm in order to get the cricket fans out of Headingley and the rugby fans in.

Matthew Elliott will not assume anything, even if Bradford win tomorrow, but Leeds' Dean Bell admits that defeat will spell the end of his side's hopes of snatching the title.

He has brought Martin Masella and Richie Blackmore back from Australia with injuries, while Robbie Paul and Bernard Dwyer are still doubtful propositions for a Bradford side that has to get back into the winning habit after its three defeats in the World Club Championship.

Wigan and London can both move above Leeds, if Bell's side loses at Headingley. Wigan face a Sheffield side likely to be without both Danny McAllister and the influential Martin Wood, whilst London - continuing with the experiment of playing Tulsen Tollett at full-back - host a Castleford team that has two new Australians, Brad Davis and Richard McKell, making debuts.

For morbid interest, the place to be is Thrum Hall, to see how Halifax will react to the humiliations heaped on them in the WCC. Their opponents are Paris, on something of a high after their unexpected but clear-cut victory over Perth last weekend.

Oldham, who resume against St Helens tomorrow, have been told that they must pay their loose forward, David Bradbury, all the payments he is owed within seven days. A Rugby League tribunal ruled, however, that the club was not sufficiently in breach of his contract to render him a free agent. Sheffield are now favourites to resolve the impasse by signing him.

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