Rugby League: St Helens invest in tenacity

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The Independent Online
AUGUSTINE O'DONNELL, St Helens' summer signing from Wigan, has been selected for a crucial role in the Charity Shield match between the clubs at Gateshead on Sunday.

O'Donnell, primarily a reserve hooker with Wigan, will be Saints' scrum-half, replacing Paul Bishop, who has been sold to Halifax.

'We will miss Paul's playmaking ability,' Mike McClennan, the St Helens coach, said. 'But Gus is a very useful footballer, very alert and tenacious. Playing against your old club brings out a bit extra, but he would have been in the starting line-up whoever we were playing.'

O'Donnell is preferred to the Welsh international Jonathan Griffiths, who is listed at stand-off. Saints are without their two summer tour casualties, Paul Loughlin and Sonny Nickle, but are confident of clinching a high-class replacement for Loughlin, who will be out until the new year with a broken arm.

McClennan expects to complete the signing of the New Zealand Test centre, Jarrod McCracken, this weekend and to have him availablefor the second League match of the season, against Wakefield, on 6 September. 'He will be a sensation,' he said. 'He is the modern-day Mal Meninga.'

McCracken's Australian club, Canterbury Bankstown, have given permission for him to stay until the end of February.

The signing of Bishop has led to two transfer requests at Halifax. Last season's first-team scrum-half, Paul Harkin, has been listed at pounds 15,000 and his understudy, Chris Robinson, at pounds 30,000. Both feared a lack of opportunities now that Bishop has arrived.

Halifax are still hoping to add a second rower to their close-season spending with Oldham's Chris Joynt and their former player Paul Dixon, now with Leeds, the men in their sights.

Leigh must pay Bradford Northern pounds 20,000 for John Pendlebury, the experienced forward they have recruited to give their newly promoted side direction, a tribunal has decided. John Dorahy, the Australian international who played for Leigh and Hull Kingston Rovers and coached Halifax two years ago, is the new coach of Featherstone Rovers, succeeding Allan Agar, who has resigned for personal reasons.