Rugby League: Wigan move angers Halifax

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The Independent Online
HALIFAX HAVE launched a furious attack on Wigan for "poaching" one of their brightest young prospects. David Hodgson, a 17-year-old winger or centre Halifax describe as "a future international", has signed for Wigan for next season, by which time his current contract will have expired.

The fee will be decided by a tribunal, but Halifax, who have already sold Chris Chester and Gavin Clinch to Wigan to ease their financial pressures, are angry about losing an important asset for the future and are asking Super League to intervene.

Hodgson has made a number of first-team appearances this season and was sought after by several other Super League clubs.

"There is evidence suggesting an illegal approach," alleged Halifax's football director, Robert Atkinson. "We are furious. It is a clear breach of the Super League Code of Conduct, which was established only a month ago, and we will be asking clubs what they are prepared to do about it.

"This issue strikes at the heart of the so-called Super League philosophy. Clubs with non-productive junior set-ups should not be allowed to take the best talent of those who have got it right.

"Now is the time to tell Wigan that their behaviour is unacceptable. This game was built on honesty and integrity but in future communication between us and Wigan will be strictly in writing."

The Wigan chairman, Peter Norbury, denied any wrong-doing. "My conscience is completely clear," he said. "Halifax were well aware that this young man's contract ran out in January and that other clubs were free to approach him from 1 July.

"If Halifax are saying that they are the example that other clubs should follow, I think of people in glass houses."

Hull have also complained about an alleged approach from Wigan to their promising 16-year-old Richard Horne. Hull's chief executive, Brian Johnson, has written to Super League's board of directors asking them to "use whatever influence you have to stop this player, or any other player who has signed a contract, from moving to another club until, at the very least, a transfer fee would be payable to the club losing the player."

The cases have echoes of similar ones in football, like the signing of Jermaine Pennant from Notts County by Arsenal. The difference, Halifax argue, is that they face being asset-stripped by a club with which they are expected to compete on the field.

Halifax are also expecting to lose their England hooker, Paul Rowley, to Wigan. He has told the club that he no longer wants to play for them. Martin Moana is the subject of an offer from Warrington, but Halifax hope to persuade the New Zealander to stay with the club.

The Doncaster forward, Tony Miller, has been banned for three matches for an attack to the head of an opponent.