Rugby League: Leeds confirm four will stay next season

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The Independent Online
LEEDS ARE close to re-signing their entire first team squad for next season, with only Paul Sterling and Richie Blackmore remaining to agree new contracts. The second-placed club in Super League, who play St Helens at Headingley tonight, have this week negotiated new deals with Tony Kemp, Jamie Mathiou, Marcus St Hilaire and Darren Fleary, writes Dave Hadfield.

Kemp, who misses this match through suspension, is exempt from the international quota after three years' residence. But if Blackmore is re-signed as well as Mathiou, Leeds' overseas contingent will be complete, effectively preventing Wendell Sailor from playing for them when he comes to Headingley to join Leeds Rugby Union next month. Brad Godden, Marc Glanville and Martin Masella, who is rested for the Saints game, are already under contract for next year.

The re-signing of Fleary and St Hilaire, two of Leeds' major successes this season, assures the future of two of their best young players, but Leeds are also keen to retain their veteran stand-off, Daryl Powell, who is a target for the Super League newcomers at Gateshead.

Powell was Sheffield Eagles' first signing when Gateshead's founder, Kath Hetherington, and her husband, Gary - now Leeds' chief executive - launched the club 14 years ago. Even in the twilight of his career, Powell could be the man to give them the on-field direction they will need in their formative months. But Powell, despite being 33, has established himself as a first-team regular in recent weeks and Leeds will be reluctant to let him go.

Leeds can draw level with Wigan at the top of Super League again if they beat St Helens. Blackmore is still missing with a groin injury, but Fleary replaces Masella at prop and Adrian Morley is back in the starting line- up. Saints have Damien Smith back, but Tommy Martyn is still missing.

Warrington have released their Australian stand-off, Adam Doyle, who is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Doyle joined Warrington from Western Suburbs hoping to win a long-term contract, but has struggled for form and fitness.

Warrington will celebrate 100 years of playing at Wilderspool on Sunday with a projected takeover by a consortium of businessmen apparently closer by the day. The takeover would bring in the investment needed to find a new ground and strengthen the team.

Wigan have been told by police to kick-off their game against Hull on Sunday at 1pm because of damage done by Hull fans the last time they were visitors. John Monie has Robbie McCormack back after concussion and brings in Terry O'Connor in place of Neil Cowie.