Rugby League: Offiah to play in spite of tragedy

MARTIN OFFIAH will play for the London Broncos this weekend, despite the death of his father who was gunned down in his native Nigeria on Monday night. George Offiah, 63, a chief magistrate in the west African country, was killed by suspected car thieves, writes Dave Hadfield.

The 32-year-old Broncos star is "utterly devastated", said his agent, Alan McColm. "His father was in his Mercedes. He was challenged by a group of individuals and shot dead."

The killing happened in the south eastern city of Onitsha, Nigeria's second largest commercial city.

The St Helens winger, Chris Smith, will miss the start of the new Super League season after being banned for three matches. Smith was ordered to appear in front of a disciplinary hearing yesterday after a tackle on the Leeds centre, Brad Godden, in Saturday's Silk Cut Challenge Cup tie was picked up on video.

He was found guilty of a late high tackle and his suspension increases the probability of the Wales international winger, Anthony Sullivan, being recalled to Saints' line-up after being left out of the cup tie.

Sheffield Eagles' forward, Darren Turner, has been fined pounds 1,000, half of it suspended, for making an obscene gesture to the crowd at Salford when he was on his way to the sin-bin near the end of the tie.

Turner is already suspended for six matches for the tackle for which he was sent to the sin-bin. "It was only a small gesture but it was seen by two and a half million people on television," said the Rugby League's media manager, John Huxley.

Gateshead's preparations for their match against Leeds on Sunday have been disrupted by their coach, Shaun McRae, slipping a disc. The new club's assistant coaches, Tony Anderson and Glen Workman, have taken charge of training.

The managing director of Super League, Maurice Lindsay, said at yesterday's launch of the new season that every club had reported an increase in season ticket sales this year.

Wigan have signed a young player with a famous name - Billie-Joe Edwards. The 16-year-old is the younger brother of the London Broncos captain, Shaun Edwards.