Rugby League: Season set for early start

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The Independent Online
NEXT season will start in mid- summer if the Rugby League's member clubs vote to adopt a revised blueprint for the future of the game in a special meeting to be held on 6 January.

The Rugby League Council wants the Lancashire and Yorkshire Cups to begin on 8 August, with the following rounds on 15 and 22 August and the finals on 1 September, three days after the start of the league season.

The original proposal from the game's Board of Directors was that the county cups should be voluntary, midweek competitions. The Council's view that they should be mandatory and played pre-season horrifies the Great Britain coach, Malcolm Reilly, who believes that players need at least 12 weeks in the summer to recover and go through a structured fitness programme. 'I spoke to the Council meeting, but they wouldn't listen,' he said. 'I'm very disillusioned. They suffer from tunnel vision and do not look at the long-term interests of the game.' A likely casualty of the proposal is the Charity Shield which for the last seven years has been on the Sunday before the start of the season.

The Council also wants to make it easier for teams to be promoted into the League from the Alliance. Under the revised proposal, two teams would automatically replace the bottom two in the Second Division, provided they finished in the top three of the Alliance, which will be largely made up of reserve sides.

The Widnes chairman, Jim Mills, has had talks with Jonathan Davies over remarks attributed to him that he wants to bow out of rugby league and coach his old union club, Llanelli. 'He denies all knowledge of this story and is very upset about it,' Mills said. 'I won't say that we have no problems with Jonathan; finance is a big problem at the club. But he has no intentions of going back to Wales within the two and a half years that he has left on his contract. If he was to leave Widnes, it would be to another rugby league club.' Davies has been out due to a groin operation, but expects to return by the New Year.

John Monie, who leaves Wigan at the end of the season, is to be the first coach of the Auckland Warriors. Monie turned down Auckland in September, but will now guide them into the Sydney Premiership, which they are due to enter in 1995. 'The more I thought about the New Zealand job, the more I liked it,' he said.