Serious injury may force Clarke to quit

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The Independent Online
Rugby League

Phil Clarke, the former Wigan back-row forward, may have to end his playing career after suffering a serious neck injury during Sydney City's 40-2 victory against North Queensland in the Optus Cup Premiership.

The consequences for Clarke could have been even worse but for the quick thinking of City's medical team, whose prompt action looks certain to have saved the 24-year-old from spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

The Sydney club doctor, Neil Halpin, and his staff recognised the severity of the injury, which Clarke suffered in a heavy tackle. It was initially thought the player had only been concussed. Clarke has cracked the fourth vertebra in his spinal column in three places. He was prepared to go back on to the field but when he came to he realised his neck felt sore.

The Sydney coach, Phil Gould, said: "We're all grateful to them for realising the extent of the injury and what could have been. Phil has been very fortunate and that's what is important. There's a lot more to life than football."

Clarke, one of the best forwards in the world, left Wigan last summer to continue his career in Australia, although he returned to Britain in October to play for England in the World Cup. He has made 16 Test appearances for Great Britain and toured Down Under with the Lions in 1992.

nEllery Hanley, the former Leeds and Great Britain rugby league player, is returning to Headingley - to play for the Leeds rugby union club. Hanley, 35, has signed a one-year contract which is believed to be worth around pounds 25,000 to play for the Courage League Fourth Division club. He has never played union before. Hanley is contracted to Sydney Tigers, but the Australian rugby league club has agreed to release him between October and next April.