Rugby league: New body leaves Lindsay in limbo

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The Independent Online
THE MEETING in Sydney that should hack through the tangled undergrowth of the game's international organisation could start with a power struggle today. Representatives of Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand are ready to set up a new international board, cutting out the chairman of the board set up by Super League, Maurice Lindsay.

An advance meeting has lined up the Australian John McDonald to be chairman of the new body, with Sir Rodney Walker, chairman of the Rugby League, as vice-chairman.

Lindsay, who is also in Sydney for the gathering, claims to have the support of the South Pacific nations, but the major powers are adamant that power should reside with the national governing bodies.

When the new board is established, it will have to tackle such questions as the international calendar and unifying the rules of the game. Australia wants to host a World Cup next year, while Britain favours a Lions' tour in 1999 and a tournament here the season after.

One argument already out of the way is that over the availability of three New Zealanders, wanted by their country at the same time as their clubs will be involved in Super League play-offs in this country. Wigan's Henry Paul, his brother Robbie, of Bradford, and Leeds' Richie Blackmore will all now be able to play for their clubs, after the Kiwis agreed not to select them for the two Tests against Australia in October.

Lindsay announced the settlement of that dispute yesterday, although the League says that it had already sorted out the matter with New Zealand.

The Cumbrian clubs, Workington and Whitehaven, are edging towards a possible merger. The main share-holders at Workington, struggling in the Second Division, are already in favour of the amalgamation in principle. Whitehaven, of the First Division, are to hold a shareholders' meeting on 11 September that will gauge opinion.

"There have been talks with our colleagues at Whitehaven," Workington's chief executive, John Donovan, said. "We want to get rugby league moving forward in west Cumbria and apply for Super League status. There may be areas of cooperation even before going as far as merger."

Gateshead, who may face opposition from the London Broncos in trying to sign the Australian Test hooker, Kerrod Walters, from Adelaide, are to hold a competition to find a name for the new franchise that joins Super League next season. London's own future is looking less clear-cut, following the resignation of their director, Brad Rosser, from the board of the club's parent company, Virgin. There are suggestions that Barry and Michael Maranta, who sold out to Virgin last year, could become involved once more.

Wigan's Australian winger, Mark Bell, is looking for another British club after being told that he will not be retained next year. The former Canberra, Western Suburbs and St George player will be edged out for next season by the signings of two other Australians, Brett Goldspink and Greg Florimo. Warrington could be interested.