Rugby League: Leeds spurn chance to fill foreign quota

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The Independent Online
FOR THE first time in a generation, Leeds will go into next season with less than their full quota of overseas players, and their chief executive, Gary Hetherington, wants other clubs to follow the philosophy of "quality not quantity".

Hetherington yesterday unveiled Leeds' two new Australian signings - the Sydney City second-rower, David Barnhill, and the Melbourne centre, Paul Bell - but said they marked the end of the club's immediate plans for overseas recruitment.

They already have the Australian prop, Jamie Mathiou, and the New Zealand Test centre, Richie Blackmore, who is recovering his fitness playing rugby union for Leeds Tykes.

Leeds also left a fifth spot open but, having failed to persuade Jonah Lomu to switch codes, they are likely to leave it that way.

"We have a spot we could fill, but we don't plan to - unless something absolutely irresistible comes up," Hetherington said. "Obviously Lomu would have forced his way in."

Ever since the international transfer ban was lifted in 1983, Leeds have exploited that market place to the limit, on some occasions fielding virtually a full team of Antipodeans and always having their full entitlement on their books.

"You have to go back a long way for us to have as few as four, but it's a reflection of the numbers of good young players we have coming through the system," Hetherington said.

Leeds will announce their Super League squad for 2000 within the next few days and it will include youngsters like Chev Walker, Danny Ward and Andy Speak, who made their mark last season.

Meanwhile, Hetherington and the new Leeds coach, Dean Lance, predicted that Bell and Barnhill will make as big an impact as their successful predecessors. "They are replacing Marc Glanville and Brad Godden, who were great for this club, but they are players who can hold their own in any competition, anywhere in the world," Lance said.

Hetherington said that the quality of overseas players next year would be a major bonus for Super League. "What we need is an influx of top-class Australian stars like Allan Langer at Warrington, Steve Renouf at Wigan and Brad Mackay at Bradford," he said.

Both Leeds' newcomers could also give a boost to home nations' World Cup preparations. Barnhill qualifies for Ireland and Bell for Scotland - and both are keen to play. Glanville, who has a Lebanese grandmother, is to be approached to play for the last qualifiers for the tournament.

St Helens are calling a meeting of shareholders on 22 December to seek their backing for a move from Knowsley Road to a new stadium.

There will be a famous name in the first round of the Silk Cut Challenge Cup this weekend, with Andrew Tuigamala, the younger brother of the former Wigan and now Newcastle centre, Va'aiga, playing for the amateurs of Dewsbury Celtic.