Rugby League: West back at Wigan to head youth policy

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The Independent Online
GRAEME WEST is returning to the club that sacked him two years ago to become Wigan's chief scout. West, who spent 13 years at Central Park as a player and a coach, also lost his job coaching Widnes last year and is now returning to Wigan as part of a backroom reorganisation.

While the former New Zealand Test forward takes responsibility for identifying young talent, two other former Wigan players, Ged Byrne and Ged Stazicker, will coach the Academy side. Last year's Academy coach, Billy McGinty, has moved up to the Under-21 reserve side, while the Great Britain coach, Andy Goodway, will concentrate on assisting John Monie with the first team.

"We're delighted to get Graeme back on board and he's happy to be involved," said the Wigan chairman, Peter Norbury. "He has the respect of everyone at the club."

West coached Wigan to a Grand Slam of the major domestic honours in 1995, but was fired by a previous board in February 1997 when he refused to be moved upstairs into an administrative role.

Meanwhile, Wigan are hoping to get their new Australian, Mark Reber, on to a flight to Britain this weekend, despite insisting that the sight of Tony Smith on crutches is a precautionary measure. Smith, Wigan's only senior scrum-half, twisted an ankle in the friendly at Halifax on Wednesday and the versatile Reber would provide ideal cover.

Their opponents in the Silk Cut Challenge Cup tie of the round next weekend, Leeds, are in the Canary Islands for warm weather training until Monday. They will have their new signing Lee Jackson fit for the tie, but are unlikely to risk Richie Blackmore.

Widnes, may resist the temptation to give Jason Critchley his second debut on the opening day of matches in the Northern Ford Premiership tomorrow.

Critchley has returned to one of his former clubs after a winter playing rugby union with Newport, but only signed on Thursday night and will have little chance to get to know his new team-mates before tomorrow's match against Dewsbury. He is also Cup-tied for next weekend's match against Keighley, so the new Widnes coach, Colin Whitfield, may hold him back.

Featherstone will be without their returning favourite, Brendon Tuuta, for their opening match against Rochdale. Tuuta is to rejoin his first English club after being released by Warrington, but cannot leave New Zealand because he is suffering from chicken pox. Hitro Okesene will make his competitive debut for Featherstone, one of the sides fancied to bid for the Premiership title and the prospect of promotion to Super League that goes with it.

Graeme Bradley, the former Bradford Bulls captain, has turned down offers to play in both divisions in order to join the coaching staff at Oldham. Bradley is to coach the Under-21s and assist with the first team. "If I was going to play, it would have been for Bradford," he said. "But, contrary to what some people might say about me, I want to put something back into the game."

Bradley will resume his rugby league career after retiring as a player last year with a warning hanging over him about his future conduct. He was severely censured for his comments about the referee Stuart Cummings following the play-off match at St Helens.