Unsettled Mather goes on strike at Wigan

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The Independent Online
Rugby League

DAVE HADFIELD

Barrie-Jon Mather, the Wigan centre, is refusing to play and staying away from the club. The 6ft 7in Great Britain international, who can also play second row and was in England's World Cup squad, has sent a solicitor's letter to Wigan telling them that he regards himself as a free agent and has, in effect, gone on strike.

Mather, 22, wants a release from his contract, which runs until 1997, but which he, with legal advice, believes to be invalid. He has been unsettled since before his stint this summer with the Western Reds in Perth, who later bid pounds 100,000 for him.

"I am very disappointed with his attitude," said the Wigan coach, Graeme West, who had hoped to include him in the team to play at Castleford last night. "BJ is staying away and we have got a letter from his solicitor saying so."

Mather asked for a transfer last year and was briefly listed by Wigan at pounds 150,000. During his time in Australia, he indicated that he would like to stay there permanently and still wants to return.

"I would hope that we could get around the table and hold talks with the player to sort this out," the Wigan director, Tom Rathbone, said. "I'm very sorry he has adopted this sort of attitude."

One possibility was for Mather, along with the former Bradford prop forward, Kelvin Skerrett, to move to Bradford Bulls in part exchange for the equally unsettled Great Britain international, Paul Newlove. But Newlove yesterday scotched that deal by saying that he did not want to go to Wigan.

The Bulls have been ordered to pay Dewsbury, of the First Division, pounds 30,000 for the 23-year-old stand-off Nathan Graham, plus a further pounds 5,000 if he plays for Great Britain.

St Helens have secured the services of two of their exciting youngsters, Steve Prescott and Andy Haigh, until the end of the 1999 Super League season after renegotiating their existing contracts.

Prescott is the Great Britain Under-21 full-back, while the 20-year-old winger Haigh is a former Academy international. Haigh will be out of action for another fortnight with damaged ankle ligaments.

The back row forward Dean Busby will also miss Friday's Championship clash at Bradford with shoulder and rib injuries, but should be back for the Regal Trophy third-round tie on Sunday week at Hull - his former club.

Saints' Western Samoan forward Apollo Perelini, who has been out with a knee injury, is expected to be fit to face Bradford.

London Broncos are to stage their Regal Trophy third round match against Halifax at Harlequins' ground, The Stoop. It will be the televised match of the round on Saturday, 25 November.

The winners of this season's Challenge Cup will pocket the biggest prize- money pay-out in League history, but the details of how much will not be revealed until the first-round draw which is being made at Leigh Miners Welfare Club on Tuesday night when 36 amateur clubs will go into the bag.

The 11 Stones Centenary Championship teams and the 11 First Division sides enter the competition in the fourth round.

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