Kevin Sinfield revisits Leeds Rhinos’ controversial Magic Weekend win over Bradford Bulls in 2007

“It makes me smile every time somebody mentions this to me because I know one thing – I was onside!” says Kevin Sinfield, recalling arguably the most controversial moment in Magic Weekend history.

Even now, 13 years on, the clash between Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls which brought the inaugural edition of what was then known as Millennium Magic to a close remains a contentious talking point.

It revolves around the frantic final play of the game which began when the Rhinos were awarded a controversial offside penalty with their bitter rivals leading 38-36.

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“We were awful that day and Bradford were great,” Sinfield, now Leeds’ director of rugby, told Sky Sports’ Golden Point Daily vodcast.

“Coming into those last couple of minutes it was very close, but I think Bradford could sense we were on our way back.”

The Bulls had already been incensed by some of the decisions from referee Steve Ganson in the match at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium – along with having two possible second-half tries chalked off by video official Ashley Klein – prior to the incident in the dying seconds.

Fuel was added to the fire when the St Helens-based official pinged Bradford for offside when they recovered a loose ball, despite it appearing to be touched by a Rhinos player.

Sinfield, who was Leeds captain at the time, opted to kick at goal from close to 40 metres out yet his effort would end up rebounding off the crossbar. However, the bounce fell into the hands of Rhinos forward Jordan Tansey, who duly applied the finish under the posts.

This was not the end of the controversy though because replays immediately showed Tansey – along with several of his team-mates – to have been in front of Sinfield before the ball was kicked. Rather than going to the video referee though, Ganson awarded the try without hesitation.

“I’m lining the kick up and there are some Bradford players hurling abuse – which is normally coming at me as I’m kicking at goal, but it’s going at Steve because he’s awarded this penalty and if we kick it, it’s a draw,” Sinfield said.

“I could see Steve getting pretty frustrated with it. I’d gone to kick the ball and unbeknown to me, Jordan Tansey was 20 metres in front of me, but as I’d gone to kick it my planted foot slipped a bit but just enough that I knew ‘this isn’t going to go over’.

I’d gone from realising that I’d just missed a kick and we’d lost the game to suddenly looking up, see the ball hit the crossbar and us score.

Kevin Sinfield

“I’d gone from realising that I’d just missed a kick and we’d lost the game to suddenly looking up, see the ball hit the crossbar and us score. Steve – yes, he is human – just gave the try straight away and I couldn’t believe it.”

By now, the hooter had sounded and Sinfield was trying to compose himself to kick the conversion to end the game while aggrieved Bradford players protested to Ganson and pointed at replays on the big screen showing the incident.

“Steve was an old-school ref who you could have the banter and the craic with,” Sinfield said.

“The funny thing I remember is it was all going on underneath the posts, Steve had awarded the try and he had to keep walking back to the posts to calm the Bradford lads down because time was up but we’d still got the kick at the posts and I couldn’t believe what was going on.

“I’d put the ball on the tee and I’m waiting for Steve to walk back from the posts to stand near me like a ref does, and as Steve was walking back he gave me the biggest wink and the smile you’ve ever seen – and it was brilliant and I thought ‘You’ll do for me’.

“That was the banter. Steve didn’t do it on purpose, he wouldn’t have known Jordan Tansey was in front, but they were good times.”

Even now, the game is a sore point for those involved on the Bulls side that day, including head coach at the time Steve McNamara.

Indeed, Sinfield recalled how McNamara was less than amused when it came up again at a training session during his spell as England boss.

“Steve McNamara was their coach at the time and I ended up working with him at England, and we re-enacted it once in an England session and he didn’t see the funny side of it – he wasn’t happy at all,” Sinfield said.

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NRL talking points: Strike threats, Cody Walker blackmail and farewell to Arthur Summons

Jenna Brooks looks at the latest news from the NRL including referees accused of sabotaging the game and attempts to blackmail Cody Walker.

Strike threat

The NRL’s decision to revert back to one on-field referee has generated plenty of negative discussions, however the biggest threat to the May 28 restart is an ongoing dispute with the referees’ union, with suggestions they could strike in response.

The Professional Rugby League Match Officials (PRLMO) has taken the NRL to the Fair Work Commission over the decision to go back to one referee for the rest of the season, claiming they were not consulted before the change was implemented.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys insisted the resumption of the season won’t be affected by this dispute and the NRL has guaranteed that all 22 full-time referees will be retained beyond the 2020 season.

“All the full-time refs, none of them have lost their jobs, so what are they going on strike for?” V’landys told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“But we’re prepared for all contingencies …. always have been. I don’t want to telecast what we’d do but we’ve got plans in place.

“I don’t think they’d get any sympathy whatsoever if they were to sabotage the game with such an action. It would be risking the game’s future if they were to do something like that.”

The NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler has labelled the PRLMO’s move ‘ridiculous’ and has questioned the amount of power the officials seem to have.

“It is ridiculous what the referees are trying to pull,” Fittler told Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.

“What’s happened over the last ten years, the refs have been put on this level of power. I could never understand why.

“The referees love the game, they get in there and do a great job but outside that, that’s where it had to stop.

“For them to be protesting and going to hold the game up …. well get a whole heap of other referees.”

The controversial decision is expected to save the sport approximately $2.5m (£1.33m).

Walker investigation

Cody Walker said he will accept whatever decision the NRL and his club, the South Sydney Rabbitohs decide, after the NRL star claims he was being blackmailed over footage of a wild brawl.

The NRL star instigated a police investigation after he was asked to pay $20,000 (£10,630) in order to stop a video of him kicking a man in the chest from being leaked to the media.

Walker, who has been cleared to train with the Rabbitohs, said the incident, which took place in northern NSW late last year, started because he was defending a family member.

“I was trying to protect a family member after the loss of one of my first cousins who we lost through suicide,” Walker said on Channel Nine News.

“She was 24 years of age and we were grieving her. Seeing her brother, who is my first cousin, seeing him fight, the first thing that popped into my head was I just need to stop it.

“It was not a true reflection of my character and who I am as a person. I let the club know straight away after the incident.”

“I had no recollection that there was a video. The video came out and I let Souths know.

“My manager got a phone call and they basically said they want $20,000 for the vision or else they would pass it on to media outlets.”

NSW Police are calling for anyone involved to call Crime Stoppers.

Goodbye Summons

The game has said goodbye to one of the greatest to have played, Arthur Summons.

In 2018 the former Australia captain, who underwent major surgery to remove cancer from his mouth, has died, aged 84.

Summons, whose image, alongside Dragons Immortal Norm Provan, makes up the NRL Premiership trophy, which is named in their honour – ‘The Provan-Summons Trophy.’

The trophy is a three-dimensional cast of an iconic photo taken of the duo after the 1963 NSWRFL Grand Final, called ‘The Gladiators’.

“You look at that trophy and it shows you why rugby league is so great. When you saw Arthur, especially because he was always with Norm …. Norm is tall, and Arthur was tiny,” Brad Fittler said.

“He wasn’t a man of tall stature …. but what he lacked in size he had in heart, brilliance, and fierce determination,” ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys.

The five-eighth and half-back, was a dual code international, who played 10 Tests for the Wallabies, before switching codes, to represent the Kangaroos in nine Tests, including the first team to tour Great Britain.

He later become a member of the NRL Hall of Fame.

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Man City's Champions League last-16 second leg tie 'set for August 7'

Manchester City’s Champions League last-16 second leg tie with Real Madrid ‘set for August 7’… nearly SIX MONTHS after Pep Guardiola’s side won at the Bernabeu

  • City’s Champions League second leg with Madrid will take place on August 7
  • That will be 174 days on from when City won the first leg 2-1 at the Bernabeu 
  • A final decision will be made on May 27 during a UEFA executive board meeting
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Manchester City’s Champions League second leg with Real Madrid is due to take place on August 7 after the coronavirus saw its original date postponed.

The rearranged date will see Los Blancos with almost three months of training behind them as Zinedine Zidane’s men will have played their 11 remaining LaLiga fixtures by the end of July.

Real Madrid trail Pep Guardiola’s side 2-1 after the first-leg in Madrid on February 26 but the 13-times winners will provide tough opposition 174 days on from their first meet.

Manchester City’s Champions League second leg with Real Madrid will take place on August 7

That will be 174 days on from when Manchester City won the first leg 2-1 at the Bernabeu 

REAL MADRID (4-3-3): Courtois, Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy, Valverde, Casemiro, Modric (Vasquez 84), Vinicius Jr (Bale 75), Benzema, Isco (Jovic 84)

Subs not used: Areola, Militao, Kroos, Marcelo

Booked: Valverde, Modric

Red Card: Ramos 

Manager: Zinedine Zidane 

MANCHESTER CITY (4-4-2): Ederson, Walker, Otamendi, Laporte (Fernandinho 33), Mendy, Mahrez, Rodri, Gundogan, Jesus, De Bruyne, B. Silva (Sterling 73)

Subs not used: Bravo, Aguero, D. Silva, Cancelo, Foden

Manager: Pep Guardiola

Plus, Zidane is yet to lose a Champions League knockout tie while in charge of Real Madrid. 

That being said, with their defence of the Premier League title having long since slipped out of their grasp, Manchester City sole attention will be on the Champions League.

Pep Guardiola’s side have yet to win the competition and with a two-year ban pending will be desperate to win the biggest prize in European football now more than ever.

While Los Blancos are still in the running for the LaLiga title, winning the Champions League would see them benefit financially amid a difficult time for football in Spain.

A final decision on the Champions League and Europa League will be made on May 27 following UEFA’s executive board meeting.

The decision will also determine the dates for Barcelona-Napoli, Bayern Munich-Chelsea and Juventus-Lyon.

Zinedine Zidane’s men will have played their 11 remaining LaLiga fixtures by the end of July 

 Zidane is yet to lose a Champions League knockout tie while in charge of Real Madrid




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VOTE: Best second rows of the Super League era

With Super League celebrating its 25th season in 2020, Sky Sports is running a public vote to discover the best XIII to have played in the competition since it was launched in 1996.

The summer era of rugby league has seen some greats of the sport emerge and we will be running one poll a week for each position until our team has been filled.

Last week saw our front row line-up completed with Keiron Cunningham voted the best hooker with 37 per cent of the votes and now we move on to filling the two second-row spots.

As usual, we have five nominees to choose from. Make your choice with our vote below, and if you are still unsure about who to pick then we have brief profiles of all our nominees.

Paul Sculthorpe

Sculthorpe began his career with Warrington Wolves, but it was St Helens he became most associated with after joining them in 1997 for a world-record transfer fee for a forward of £375,000.

During 11 years at Saints, the goal-kicking second row helped them to four Super League Grand Final triumphs, four Challenge Cup successes and two World Club Challenge victories.

His efforts saw him become the first – and, so far, only – player to win Man of Steel back-to-back in 2001 and 2002, along with being nominated for the Dream Team four times.

Ben Westwood

Westwood started his career as a centre with Wakefield Trinity, but switching to the second row during his time with Warrington saw him earn England honours and become a mainstay of the Wolves side from 2002 to 2019.

The Yorkshireman, who retired at the end of last season, helped Warrington lift the Challenge Cup on three occasions during his time there.

He was nominated for the Dream Team four times and developed into a useful goal-kicker as well.

Chris Joynt

Joynt’s career spanned the winter and summer eras, starting out with Oldham, and he was one of the key men in St Helens’ early Super League triumphs.

He helped Saints secure the first-ever Super League title in 1996 and back-to-back Grand Final triumphs in 1999 and 2000, winning the Harry Sunderland Trophy in the latter.

Another Grand Final success followed in 2002, while Joynt was named in the Dream Team once as well before retiring at the end of the 2004 season.

Lee Gilmour

Unlike many of our nominees during this vote, Gilmour was never named in the Dream Team or handed any of the individual awards.

However, he was a key component of successful Wigan, Bradford Bulls and St Helens sides during an 18-season career which included spells with Castleford Tigers, Huddersfield Giants and Wakefield.

Gilmour helped both Wigan and Saints to Grand Final triumphs, plus was part of Bulls and St Helens sides which won the World Club Challenge and earned international recognition with Great Britain and Scotland.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan

A 20-year career for and over 400 appearances for hometown club Leeds Rhinos is just a small part of what Jones-Buchanan achieved during his career.

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Nathan Cleary: Penrith Panthers halfback banned for being ‘untruthful’ over lockdown breach

Australia’s National Rugby League has banned Penrith Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary for two matches and handed him a A$30,000 (£15,736) fine for being “untruthful” about his breach of social distancing rules last month.

Cleary was initially fined A$10,000, A$6,000 of which suspended, and a suspended one-match ban after photos emerged of him with a group of girls at his home in defiance of public health orders aimed at containing the coronavirus.

The 22-year-old son of Panthers head coach Ivan Cleary had said the women were his sister’s friends and had popped in to his house for 10 minutes while waiting for an Uber.

However, images subsequently emerged showing Cleary dancing with the women on the video sharing platform TikTok, and the NRL’s integrity unit reopened his case.

The NRL said it had issued new breach notices to Cleary and his housemate Tyrone May after the Panthers duo had co-operated with the governing body’s integrity unit.

“The notices allege that the players were untruthful in relation to material matters and the proposed sanctions reflect the seriousness of those allegations,” the NRL said in a statement.

May was given a two-match ban and a A$15,000 fine (£7,868).

Cleary was among four NRL players, including two internationals, sanctioned last month for breaching social restrictions in eastern New South Wales state.

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Rugby stars unite to support Care With Hair

What do Terry O’Connor, Owen Farrell, Willie Isa, Danny Walker, Peter Mata’utia and Sitaleki Akauola all have in common – besides rugby?

They’ve answered the challenge, they’ve done their bit to help those who need it – and they all have brand new haircuts.

Not for the first time, the rugby league family has come together to help those in need.

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Community Integrated Care is the social care partner of Super League and the RFL. It is the charity that is also responsible for creating and launching the Learning Disability Rugby League.

It is one of the biggest care providers in Britain, supporting thousands of people across the country who have learning disabilities, autism, mental health concerns, and dementia.

They have spent almost £2m since lockdown started in March. That money has gone towards trying to keep people safe and healthy during these frightening times.

But these past seven weeks have been more than challenging for the charity, which has sadly seen many of the people they care for succumb to coronavirus.

Proud ambassador of our charity, Terry O’Connor from @SkySports, is taking on the #CareWithHair challenge!
Donating money saved on his ✂️ to help care services through this crisis, at: https://t.co/RZik1C3gwF

Let’s see your lockdown looks @owen_faz, @RLBarrieMc10 & @ISA_Willie! pic.twitter.com/Mxo6lBFAu2

John Hughes, who is the director of partnerships and communities at Community Integrated Care, has helped come up with a creative way to raise some much-needed funds – Care With Hair.

“We have been trying to think about how we can do a fundraiser that everyone could get behind and it would be something that people would have a lot of fun with, and it might bring some happiness to what is a very difficult time,” Hughes said.

“What we’ve realised is, at the moment, a lot of people have had to become DIY hairstylists. So, we came up with this concept ‘Care With Hair.’

“The idea is that when people are doing their own haircuts, the money that they might have spent at the barbers or the salon can be donated to this campaign, and every penny is going to the front line of this crisis.”

I have sorted out my hair now let’s see your lockdown looks @JaceClark013 @jpm_emerson @LiamMarshall20 #CareWithHair

P.S Thanks to my iso barber @gembon23 for my fade yesterday 😂 pic.twitter.com/UfomryAoZP

Hughes said the funds raised will be used for many things including activity packs to help the 4000 people in the charity’s care cope with the challenges of self-isolation.

“That could be projectors for people who are coming to the end of their life, so they can see images on the ceiling of the bedroom that might bring them comfort, it might be sensory equipment for people with learning disabilities who need something to help stimulate,” Hughes said.

“We will also try to get some comfort packs created for our staff, the small things that might make a big difference. Things like snacks and drinks, because if you’re working long hours you won’t have the opportunity to go to the shops.

“The target for us is simply to raise as much money as we can, because there is so much we can do for people who are going through this crisis.”

DIY Hair trim and donation for the @ComIntCare #CareWithHair campaign! Make a donation however big or small to https://t.co/vqynxza1Wo with the money you will save on haircuts during lockdown! 🔐 💇‍♀️ pic.twitter.com/veiVgJezb0

The Care With Hair campaign has only been running for a short period and has already seen some of Rugby’s finest involved.

O’Connor, Farrell, Isa, Walker, Mata’utia and Akauola – and that’s just the start, because when you take part in the challenge, you then nominate three people to follow suit.

When you see who has been nominated, this campaign is sure to go far and wide.

“Hopefully it’s something everyone can get involved in and everyone feels the difference,” Hughes said.

“The key thing that we want people to do next is when they see their sporting hero’s getting involved in this it would be amazing to see the fans also taking it on.”

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Andy Last: England assistant and Hull FC coach stepping out of the shadows

Even if they do not know much about who he is, the chances are Andy Last will be a recognisable figure to anyone who has been around Hull FC at any point during the past 15 years.

Since making the transition from playing after a career-changing injury, Last has served on the staff of a succession of head coaches at the club – most recently as an assistant to former Black and Whites team-mate Lee Radford.

But in recent weeks, the 39-year-old has been pushed to the forefront after being named as Hull’s interim head coach in the wake of Radford’s departure and being appointed as one of new England head coach Shaun Wane’s assistants.

“It’s been quite strange,” Last told Sky Sports. “In my coaching career, I’ve probably stayed in the shadows and then been thrust into the spotlight over the past four or five weeks.”

Influenced by one of the greats

To understand how Last arrived at this point, you have to go back to where it all began when he was a youngster playing for the junior section of a club run by one of the city’s rugby icons.

Johnny Whiteley spent 15 years starring for Hull FC in the post-war era and later became a highly regarded coach, succeeding Roy Francis – a man whose forward-thinking approach brought about its own coaching revolution – at the club and overseeing the Great Britain team.

He maintained an involvement in the grassroots game with the Eureka amateur club too, with Last among the many rugby players in Hull to have benefited from his insight.

Indeed, those early days under Whiteley’s tutelage are still influencing him in his own coaching career.

“John used to have a multi-gym which he gave access to all of the teams,” Last said. “We would train Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the opening to every session was a 5km run.

“John influenced me quite a lot and he’s still doing it now. He still comes down to the training ground and speaks about that fitness and that work ethic, and that’s something which has stood me in good stead.

“He’s a champion fella and he’s going to go down as one of the all-time greats.”

From playing to coaching

Spotted playing for Eureka by noted scout Mel Harman, Last joined an academy set-up which included future Hull stars Radford, Paul Cooke, Paul King and Richard Horne.

Despite graduating to the senior set-up as well, his Super League playing career amounted to a handful of first-team appearances after making his bow against Warrington Wolves in 1999.

Lee Jackson’s return to the club in 2001 left the hooker mainly featuring for the A-team. Then his career path was completely altered when he broke his tibia and fibia, plus shattered a bone in his ankle in one incident.

Although he recovered, Last admits he was never quite the same as a player. However, his hours spent talking over the finer points of rugby league with then-head coach Shaun McRae had impressed the Australian enough to offer him a role as A-team player-coach.

“They thought I would be able to influence players in the right way and also get on the pitch and give them a bit of direction, albeit not at the level of Super League,” Last said.

“I made the decision that if I cannot influence the team from a playing point of view then I can certainly influence the team in a coaching point of view, because I could lead from the front and get the boys to do as I did not just as I said.”

Coaching the club’s up-and-coming youngsters and helping them to become better players was “a breath of fresh air” for Last and he later became Hull’s head of youth.

But stepping up to coach at first-team level brought new challenges, not only because of his relative youth compared to some of the squad but also because he was working with high-profile internationals such as Australian loose forward Craig Fitzgibbon and half-back Sean Long.

The challenge at the first-team side was because I was younger than some of those players, I had to make sure I knew my stuff

Andy Last

“The challenge at the first-team side was because I was younger than some of those players, I had to make sure I knew my stuff,” Last said.

“I spent a lot of time watching video and pre-planning questions they were going to ask. I used to put themselves in their shoes and I’d have four or five answers.

“You had to be ready for them asking your opinion and if you knew their stuff. They would come back with several questions and then you felt you were getting them onside because they were testing the water.”

International recognition

It is not only Hull who have recognised Last’s coaching ability. He was part of the England Academy set-up for their 2012 tour of Australia and was named on Steve McCormack’s Scotland staff for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

So too has recently-appointed England boss Wane, naming Last and former St Helens star Paul Wellens as his assistants, and the former is looking forward to continuing his development alongside the man who coached Wigan Warriors to multiple Super League Grand Final triumphs.

“Early on, my coaching philosophy was all about the Xs and Os, making sure I knew my stuff technically,” Last said.

“As I’ve got older, I’ve realised it’s not the be-all and end-all – there has to be a little bit more substance to what you do and that’s something I’m looking forward to working on with Shaun.

“The man-management side of things is massive and the mental side of things is massive. I’m not the finished article, I’m still learning and hope to be the best I can be.”

It is nearly 20 years since Last’s playing ambitions were curtailed, but it is difficult to imagine he would be unhappy about how things have worked out after his early start in coaching.

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VOTE: Best Super League scrum-half

With Super League celebrating its 25th season in 2020, Sky Sports is running a public vote to discover the best XIII to have played in the competition since it was launched in 1996.

The summer era of rugby league has seen some greats of the sport emerge and we will be running one poll a week for each position until our team has been filled.

The latest player to earn a place in the team is Danny McGuire, with the former Leeds Rhinos and Hull Kingston Rovers man taking the stand-off spot after winning 54 per cent of last week’s vote.

Now we move on to finding who will partner him at scrum-half and once again there is a shortlist of five players for you to choose from.

Make your choice with our vote below, and if you are still unsure about who to pick then we have brief profiles of all our nominees.

Robbie Paul

The New Zealander was one of the early stars of the Super League era, having first moved to Bradford Bulls from his homeland in 1994 when rugby league in this country was still a winter sport.

Paul quickly adapted to life in the UK and went on to become a mainstay of the Bulls side during their glory years, eventually being appointed captain and helping them win three Grand Finals. He then went on to enjoy a spell with Huddersfield Giants, reaching the Challenge Cup final in 2006.

His legacy at Odsal was underlined by him named in Bradford’s Team of the Century and Millenium Masters sides, while only Lesley Vainikolo has scored more tries in a Bulls shirt.

Danny Brough

The 37-year-old is in his second spell with Wakefield Trinity and is one of the longest-serving players in the competition, having made his Super League bow for Hull FC back in 2005.

After a season back in the Championship in 2007, helping Castleford Tigers achieve promotion, skilful half-back Brough joined rivals Wakefield before moving on to Huddersfield in 2010.

A prolific goal-kicker as well, the Scotland international enjoyed a stellar spell with the Giants, earning the Man of Steel prize in 2013 as they won the League Leaders’ Shield and two Dream Team appearances.

Luke Gale

Another player still lighting up Super League, Gale is now back at hometown club Leeds Rhinos after playing for Harlequins RL, Bradford and Castleford.

It was at the Tigers where he firmly established himself as one of the competition’s stars, earning an England call-up and a place in the Dream Team three years running.

Gale was named Man of Steel in 2017 as well for his role in helping Castleford win the League Leaders’ Shield and reach the Grand Final for the first time.

Sean Long

One of the most recognisable players of the Super League era with his blonde flowing hair, Long became one of the key men in St Helens’ successful sides of the 2000s after short spells with Wigan and Widnes Vikings early in his career.

A skilful player with a superb kicking game, Long helped Saints to four Grand Final triumphs and was a five-time Challenge Cup winner as well, finishing his career with two seasons at Hull FC.

On an individual level, the Great Britain international was named Man of Steel in 2000 and was picked in the Dream Team twice.

Paul Deacon

Another one of Bradford’s star players from their glory years, Deacon went on to enjoy a successful spell with Wigan as well.

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Plans to complete Premier League season at neutral 'hubs' gain support

Plans to complete Premier League season at neutral ‘hubs’ behind closed doors gain support with stadiums in the south, Midlands and north ready to host top-flight matches to minimise coronavirus risk

  • The Premier League is planning for its return amid the coronavirus crisis
  • There are concerns that hosting matches at original venues will be impossible
  • Restrictions are likely to remain in place because of the global pandemic
  • Designated stadiums in the south, Midlands and north would host games
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

It is increasingly likely that what is left of the Premier League season will be played at neutral venues behind closed doors, should football return.

There are concerns that hosting matches at the original venues might be logistically impossible when some restrictions are likely to remain because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, designated stadiums in the south, Midlands and north would host games to minimise travel for staff, TV crews and medical teams.

The FA have offered the use of Wembley as a neutral hub for Premier League matches

The FA have offered the use of Wembley and St George’s Park, and other sites are being considered. Multiple matches could be played on the same day at one venue.

There are also concerns that should matches be played at the original venues, supporters would turn up.

Police forces are unlikely to be in a position to deploy the numbers needed to ensure that fans are kept away from stadiums.

There are concerns that hosting matches at original venues might be logistically impossible

Whether football does return remains to be seen. Privately, some top-flight clubs believe there is very little chance of the campaign being completed and they have growing confidence that broadcasters Sky Sports and BT Sport would not attempt to claw back the £370million owed for outstanding matches. 

The FA are considering completing the Women’s Super League at neutral venues and other sports, including cricket, are examining similar plans.

Old Trafford and Southampton’s Ageas Bowl — each of which has an on-site hotel — are being considered to host England cricket matches.

Sources say the ECB will hold a board meeting this week to discuss up to five different plans.

Some top-flight clubs believe there is very little chance of the campaign being completed


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Coronavirus: Championship and League One clubs ‘all fighting for the same cause’

For rugby league clubs outside of Super League, ensuring financial stability is a difficult balance act at the best of times.

The majority of teams in the Championship and League One are part-time and at both levels clubs are reliant on match-day income. That has left them hit hard by the season being suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Matters are complicated by each club receiving a different level of central funding from the RFL. However, they are presenting a united front in regular video conferences to ensure they all survive for when the 2020 season is eventually able to resume.

Championship side Bradford Bulls are one of the clubs who have furloughed their staff during this period and, speaking to the Golden Point daily podcast, football manager Stuart Duffy gave an insight into what life is like for them and their rivals at present.

“It’s different to Super League in as much as the distribution money is different,” Duffy, who has been involved with the club for 22 years, told Sky Sports. “Some clubs get more than others whereas in Super League everybody gets the same.

“Some clubs will be managing better than others, but those who get the most distribution money probably have the biggest budgets and have spent the most on players. I know we would struggle without the gate money, but some clubs could probably survive on the distribution money.

“I think there is a will among the players and staff to make sure we get through this and I think the game itself can come out of this stronger.

Everybody is together, it’s an ‘us against them’ attitude at the moment and we’re all fighting for the same cause which is the future of this great sport

Stuart Duffy

“Everybody is together, it’s an ‘us against them’ attitude at the moment and we’re all fighting for the same cause which is the future of this great sport.”

The Bulls were sitting seventh in the Championship with two wins and two defeats from their opening four matches before the season was suspended, having also run Super League side Wakefield Trinity close in their fifth-round Challenge Cup tie.

Toronto Wolfpack chairman Bob Hunter revealed earlier this week there had been talks about suspending promotion and relegation to and from Super League this year due to the disruption caused by coronavirus.

Duffy is sympathetic to those views, but admitted he would rather see promotion and relegation maintained if the campaign can be played to a conclusion in all three professional divisions.

“It’s a difficult one, isn’t it?” Duffy said. “It’s one where you’d think if you were a club at the top of our division you’d want promotion and relegation, but it depends how the season pans out.

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