Rugby League: McRae makes Walters captain

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The Independent Online
GATESHEAD THUNDER will be captained in their first season in Super League by one of the most respected leaders in the world game following the appointment of Kerrod Walters yesterday. The former Australian Test hooker arrived at the weekend as part of the second wave of Thunder's imports from Down Under and will skipper the new franchise.

"Although there were a lot of well-qualified players for the position of captain, Kerrod was the obvious choice," said the Gateshead coach, Shaun McRae. "His experience and natural leadership abilities make him the man for the job."

Wigan have narrowed down their search in Australia for a player to cover the hooker and half-back positions to two team-mates of their latest recruit, Greg Florimo, at his former club, North Sydney.

The Wigan coach, John Monie, has approached both the experienced Mark Soden and the young utility player, Mark Reber, as possible back-up for Tony Smith and his first-choice hooker, Jon Clarke. Soden has played both scrum-half and hooker for the Bears, while Reber has been used mainly off the bench and can cover a variety of positions.

Any thoughts of bringing Brett Kimmorley to Central Park have been scuppered by Melbourne's insistence on retaining him for the remaining two years of his contract, but either one of the Norths players could be available because their club has signed the Queensland State of Origin hooker, Jamie Goddard, from the defunct Gold Coast Chargers. Another displaced Gold Coast player, the back-row forward Heath Cruckshank, has joined Leigh.

A bid from a Coventry club headed by the former England rugby union forward Keith Fairbrother could win them a place in the Rugby League Conference for this summer.

The Conference, based in the South and Midlands, had intended to expand by four teams this year, but Coventry's late bid is considered so persuasive that they might admit six new clubs when the new format is announced on Friday.

Bradford Bulls have been ordered to pay pounds 25,000 to Hull Sharks for the promising forward Lee Radford, plus a further pounds 10,000 after 15 first-team appearances and pounds 15,000 after another 15 matches. A full international appearance would cost pounds 10,000. Hull must pay Hunslet pounds 5,000 for Bob Roberts.