Shay chosen to host Cup final in competition shake-up

First the NRL champions Melbourne Storm and now, with another feather in their cap, comes the Northern Rail Cup final to Halifax’s The Shay.

The West Yorkshire club host the Australians in an opposed training session on Tuesday ahead of next week’s World Club Challenge with Leeds Rhinos.

But it was yesterday announced they will also hold the Championships’ knockout competition finale after the RFL decided they needed a ‘fresh look’ following eight years at Blackpool FC.

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The governing body have also switched the showpiece to a Saturday – July 20 – from its usual Sunday slot and introduced a double-header element with the inaugural Northern Rail Bowl.

That will be contested by the two Championship One clubs which topped their respective Northern Rail Cup groups prior to the knock-out stages of the competition. and, should one such club reach the Northern Rail Cup final, the side placed second in their group will play in the Bowl final.

Leeds Rhinos’ coach Brian McDermott says Joe Vickery has, against all the odds, a chance of actually recovering from his ankle injury in time for next Friday’s meeting with Melbourne despite the Australian winger initially being ruled out for another month.

He is without ex-England captain Jamie Peacock and Brett Delaney for tomorrow night’s game with Salford City Reds though both should be fit for the WCC.

Ryan Bailey is more doubtful but McDermott calls upon Stevie Ward, Kylie Leuluai and Richard Moore for potentially their first Super League games of the year.

Ex-Rhinos and Great Britain centre Keith Senior has joined Leeds Rugby Foundation, the club’s official charity, as a community development officer.

Huddersfield Giants have released Australian second-row Luke O’Donnell by mutual agreement and he is expected to sign for NRL club Sydney Roosters.

He made just 23 appearances in his first two injury-hit seasons in Super League but made an impressive return in Huddersfield’s opening 40-4 win at St Helens.

But he missed Sunday’s win over London amid reports his wife was homesick, he had become unhappy over tightening of tax regulations and Roosters had, also, offered a player-exchange deal.

Huddersfield managing director Richard Thewlis said “There have been no deals done in respect of Luke’s playing registration and he is free to choose his next destination back home down under.”

Hull FC, unchanged at St Helens tomorrow evening, have handed long-serving Richard Horne a new one-year deal for 2014.

The utility back, 30, made his debut back in 1999.