Rugby League: St Helens must face inquiry

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DAVE HADFIELD

St Helens will face the inevitable league inquiry next month into the reserve-strength side that they fielded at Wigan on Boxing Day.

Saints, admitting that they had Saturday's Regal Trophy semi-final against Warrington on their minds, sent out a side containing just one regular first-team player at Central Park and were beaten 58-4.

Even though their chief executive, David Howes, insisted that there was medical evidence to explain all the absentees, the league's board of directors has summoned the club to appear in the new year.

The league's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, confirmed as soon as he arrived back in the country from the Super League international board meeting in Sydney that an inquiry will take place. "The precedents of Leeds last year and Oldham this season mean that the Rugby Football League is bound to hold an inquiry," he said.

Leeds were fined pounds 8,000 for fielding a team of reserves against St Helens during the run-up to the Silk Cut Challenge Cup final in 1994, and pounds 12,000 - half of it suspended - for putting out almost as weak a side against Bradford Northern soon after.

Oldham were fined pounds 4,000, suspended for 12 months, for sending out a weakened team against Warrington this season. Their coach, Andy Goodway, argued that he needed to look at some of his fringe players.

Leeds and Oldham produced medical certificates to justify their selections, just as Saints have said they will do in this instance. That has clearly not been regarded as a complete answer to similar charges in the past, and St Helens must expect similar scepticism in this case.

By the time the board of directors considers the case, of course, they will know how many of Saints' absentees have recovered in time to play against Warrington. Ironically, one of the reserves used at Wigan, Chris Morley, is now out for the rest of the season after fracturing his thumb.

Bradford Bulls will mount a defence on behalf of Matt Calland, their centre, when he appears before the disciplinary committee today after being sent off for the third time this season - for a high tackle at Warrington earlier this month.

Neil Cowie, the Wigan prop, will appear at next week's disciplinary hearing. Any suspension for the punching offence for which he was dismissed against St Helens will rule him out of Wigan's Regal Trophy semi-final against Leeds on 6 January.

Ellery Hanley, the former Wigan and Leeds captain, is being tipped to join St George in the Australian Rugby League as player-coach. Hanley, Great Britain's coach until he signed a contract with the ARL, had been expected to join Gold Coast, but St George are a far more inviting prospect. Rod Reddy, the former Australian international and Barrow coach, had been appointed to succeed Brian Smith, but he has accepted the job as coach of the new Super League club in Adelaide.

Hull have followed their neighbours, Hull KR, by recruiting from the Papua New Guinea World Cup squad. Marcus Bai, a centre who scored against New Zealand in the tournament, is due to arrive in time for the first summer season.

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