Rugby League: Saints to extend Long's contract

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The Independent Online
ST HELENS are trying to negotiate a deal that will keep their Great Britain scrum-half, Sean Long, at the club beyond the expiry of his current contract at the end of next season.

"Although there is a year to run on his contract, he is a player we rate very highly and we have already talked to him about improved terms," Saints' manager, Eric Hughes, said.

Long, a bargain buy from Widnes in 1997, made his Test debut against New Zealand last autumn and would be much sought after if he ever decided to leave Knowsley Road.

Although he missed Saints' high-scoring 42-34 victory over Wakefield Trinity last Sunday with a calf injury, Long will return for the match against Warrington this weekend that could knock one of the other play- off candidates out of contention.

Reports in Australia suggest that Saints have made an improved offer to their former player, Jarrod McCracken, for next season.

The New Zealand Test back-rower was one of the causes of the row between the Saints coach, Ellery Hanley, and his board earlier this season, when Hanley was suspended after criticising his board for, among other things, failing to sign him.

McCracken, now playing for Parramatta in Australia, is out of contract at the end of the season and an enhanced offer could see him on his way back to St Helens, for whom he played as a young centre in the 1992-93 season.

But Hughes warned that nothing was confirmed yet. "There are all sorts of talks going on, but this one is only speculation at the moment," he said. "He is one of the possibilities, but his contract would have to fit in with the overall picture. We have to come to terms with the reduction in the salary cap; that's something we don't have any choice about."

Leeds have followed up their re-signing of their oldest player, Daryl Powell, by securing the services of one of their youngest for another two seasons. Daniel Ward, the 18-year-old son of the former Leeds captain and coach, David Ward, is the youngest of the club's players who is out of contract this year and has already made his first-team debut at prop.