Rugby League: Hunte on hold over future: St Helens wing out of favour

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The Independent Online
ALAN HUNTE'S future at St Helens is under a cloud following the revelation that the Great Britain wing was dropped from Sunday's match against Widnes after a disagreement with the club's coach, Mike McClennan. Hunte was said to be left out because of a knee injury, but yesterday he said: 'I wasn't injured. I was dropped when I arrived for the match.'

McClennan's decision to leave one of his best players out of a potentially vital match came after a training incident. 'I'm the wrong person to ask whether that was the reason because as far as I'm concerned nothing really happened,' Hunte said. He is Saints' leading try-scorer with 28 so far this season and won his fourth Great Britain cap against France 12 days ago.

Hunte has not asked for a transfer and planned to train with the rest of the squad last night, but he admits that his relationship with McClennan has been a volatile one. 'This is not the first time I have felt that I have been treated unfairly,' he said.

McClennan would only say: 'Someone else was preferred in his position for the match. The circumstances pertaining to that are of a confidential nature.'

Hunte, 22, comes from Wakefield and was signed by Saints from under the noses of Yorkshire clubs. His availability would be one of the few events that would awaken a moribund transfer market.

Russell Smith, the Castleford referee, will become the youngest to take charge of a Challenge Cup final when he officiates in the match between Widnes and Wigan at Wembley on 1 May. Smith, a former Bradford Northern player, is 29. This is only his second season on the league list.

The reserve official is John Holdsworth, who refereed the final in 1987 and 1990, and the touch-judges will be Ken Spencer, of Middlewich, and Jackie Beech, from Whitehaven.