Rugby League Preview: Newlove's labours lost

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The Independent Online
UNLESS Paul Newlove parachutes into Post Office Road waving a High Court injunction, Bradford Northern will rue his absence this afternoon. Great Britain will have cause to regret it for a lot longer.

Newlove, the most talented threequarter in Britain, has turned his back on Test rugby after being punished for refusing to fly to Australia with the Great Britain sevens squad during the week when he was moving house. Part of the punishment is that he cannot - despite legal manoeuvring on his behalf - play against his old club, Featherstone, today. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that another Bradford player, Paul Medley, is Newlove's replacement in Sydney.

It all goes to make a tricky fixture, against a club still smarting from the defection of Newlove and the two Foxes - the scrum-half Deryck and coach Peter - to Bradford, even trickier.

The sevens have their effect elsewhere, with the Castleford coach, John Joyner, outraged by the late addition of two of his players, Graham Steadman and St John Ellis, to the party, depriving him of their services at St Helens. Warrington, meanwhile, will be without Jonathan Davies.

The biggest losers in the long run, however, will not be a club side but the Great Britain team. Newlove puts home and hearth above international adventure and when he says he will not play in a Test again he undoubtedly means it.

The contrast between his enormous talent and his lack of ambition has long been one of the game's more intractable puzzles. Someone who has worked with him at international level says: 'For a lot of us, the game is a passion. For Paul, it's a means to earn a living.'

Bradford may yet wish that he was earning his living at Featherstone this afternoon, instead of unpacking tea-chests in nearby Knottingley.

TODAY'S FIXTURES (3.0 unless stated): Stones Bitter Championship Featherstone v Bradford; Hull KR v Wakefield (3.15); Leeds v Salford; Leigh v Halifax; Sheffield v Oldham (3.15); St Helens v Castleford; Warrington v Hull; Second Division Barrow v Doncaster (3.15); Bramley v Swinton; Dewsbury v Keighley (3.30); Hunslet v Whitehaven (3.30); London Crusaders v Huddersfield; Rochdale v Batley; Ryedale-York v Highfield (3.15); Workington v Carlisle. Amateur Youth International Barla President's XIII v France (at Watersheddings).