Rugby League: Langer decides to quit at 32

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The Independent Online
ALLAN LANGER, the world's dominant scrum-half for the last decade, has shocked the Brisbane Broncos by announcing his retirement in mid-season. Langer, 32, has won 22 caps for Australia, the last of them against New Zealand last Friday when, despite finishing on the winning side, he was outshone by his opposite number, Stacey Jones.

He played for Brisbane two days later, but was substituted midway through the draw with their fellow strugglers, the North Queensland Cowboys, which left the Broncos, last year's National Rugby League champions, just one place off the foot of the table.

Langer cited his loss of form as the reason for his sudden decision, saying that it was the Kiwi Test that convinced him that it was time to go.

"The toughest thing for players who have been lucky enough to have a long career is knowing when to end it," he said.

Despite only standing 5ft 6in, Langer towered above other scrum-halves for most of that career. He was, with only brief exceptions, Australia's regular in that position from the time of making his debut in 1988. He also figured in all Brisbane's triumphs, including their three Australian Premierships and the Super League title and World Club Challenge in 1997. The Broncos were his only club, despite his being linked at times with a possible move to Wigan or to the other Broncos in London.

Andy Gregory, now coach of Salford, and Langer's direct opponent in Ashes Tests, paid tribute."He was one of the best I ever played against," he said. "Of all of them, I would rate him alongside Peter Sterling as the best Australia has produced. He's not just an opponent but a mate as well. I know he's a proud chap who wants to be remembered as an all-time great, but I still think he has a lot to offer rugby league."

One of the Australian candidates linked with the coaching post at Leeds next term, Phil Economidis, has been appointed national coach of Fiji. Economidis, previously coach at Gold Coast, takes on a part-time role once filled by Leeds' incumbent, Graham Murray.

Manly have fined their winger, John Hopoate, Aus$4,000 (pounds 1,600) and suspended him for eight weeks after he reportedly turned up drunk at training.

Meanwhile, the Huddersfield coach, Malcolm Reilly, has denied reports from Australia that his scrum-half and captain, Bobbie Goulding, has been made available to clubs there.

Another international scrum-half, Salford's Martin Crompton, will miss the game against one of his former clubs, Wigan, next Monday after being suspended for one match as a result of being placed on report.

The Halifax winger, Nick Pinkney, has also been banned for one game for an on-report offence, but the Barrow second-row forward, Stuart Rhodes, faces eight games on the sidelines after being found guilty of use of the elbow to a Rochdale opponent's head.