Warrington begin clear-out

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Warrington have begun their expected clear-out by announcing an initial retained list for next season of just 16 players. Those who have been offered new contracts include the cream of the club's younger talent - headed by the current Great Britain squad members, Paul Sculthorpe and Jon Roper - but there are notable absentees who have played regularly in Super League this season.

Those include this year's three signings from the Auckland Warriors - Willie Swann, Tony Tatupu and Super League's leading try-scorer, Nigel Vagana - their fellow Kiwis, Kelly Shelford and George Mann, as well as the Great Britain internationals, Paul Hulme and Richie Eyres.

Others who have not yet been retained are Salesi Finau, Paul Barrow, John Hough, Tony Thorniley, John Thursfield, Andy Bennett and Paul Darbyshire. Two others, Chris Rudd and Gareth Davies, have been offered only part- time terms.

Negotiations are still going on with some players, with Warrington particularly keen to retain Swann, who has been successfully converted into a hooker after being sacked by the club's ex-coach, John Dorahy, early in the season.

The present coach, Darryl Van de Velde, has agreed a two year extension to his contract and is flying to Australia, where he hopes to finalise the signing of some players to replace the ones who will be leaving.

Vagana and Tatupu are likely to be used as bargaining counters in the effort to sign the New Zealand Test prop, Grant Young, from Auckland, but Van de Velde also has several players in mind in his native Australia.

Warrington are also being linked with the Welsh international full-back, Paul Atcheson, one of a number of players expected to leave relegated Oldham.

Stuart Lester, another import from Auckland this year, is out of the rest of Wigan's campaign in the Premiership and the World Club Championship. The second-row forward needs a shoulder operation.

Featherstone Rovers, who play at Huddersfield in a Divisional Premiership quarter-final on Sunday, have agreed new one-year contracts with two Australians, Ty Fallins and Danny Baker.

n Matthew Rodwell, the Perth Reds full-back, yesterday became the first high-profile Super League player to defect back to the Australian Rugby League when he signed with St George, citing uncertainty surrounding Perth's future as one of the factors in his decision.