1. ITV Report

Tony Smith absence could prove costly for Warrington

Tony Smith. Photo: PA

By Ian Laybourn

Warrington are facing the threat of sanctions from the Rugby Football League after their former England coach Tony Smith snubbed Sunday's ClubCall announcement.

Smith has consistently stated his opposition to the idea of a team choosing their Super League play-off semi-final opponents, labelling the concept a "gimmick" and claiming it provides extra motivation for the opposition.

He had suggested, following the Wolves' opening play-off win over reigning champions Leeds, that he would toss a coin "if they make me participate" but, for the second year in a row, he opted not to attend the press conference.

That infuriated RFL officials and Press Association Sport reports that Smith's absence will be referred to its compliance unit for investigation.

If the RFL finds there has been a breach of regulations, Warrington and Smith could be fined up to £10,000.

It is believed each of the four semi-finalists were given £5,000 to guarantee a high-profile presence at the press conference, with Warrington handed an additional £5,000 to cover the costs of hosting the event.

While head coaches Paul Anderson (Huddersfield), Brian McDermott (Leeds) and Shaun Wane (Wigan) attended, along with either their chairman or chief executive, the Wolves were represented for the second year in a row by assistant coach Willie Poching alongside captain Adrian Morley.

Despite Warrington chief executive Andy Gatcliffe saying that Smith would participate in the decision-making, club chairman Stephen Broomhead told the news conference that the call to play Huddersfield rather than Leeds was made by the board of directors, with the backing of the coaching staff.

He also revealed the decision was made before Huddersfield's 76-18 win over Hull in last Thursday's preliminary semi-final.

Morley confirmed that the Wolves players were not consulted during the decision-making process.

"It was all done at board level," Morley said. "As players we weren't too bothered who we got.

"Both teams were in the top four so it was always going to be a tough game with what's at stake."

Leeds went on to win the Grand Final in each of the last two seasons after being "ClubCalled" and Morley accepts the Giants' desire may be fulled by Sunday's announcement.

"Possibly, it's worked for Leeds over the last two years," Morley added. "Whoever we chose would have had that in their arsenal.

"It's up to us to combat that and we're looking forward to the challenge."

Warrington's tie against Huddersfield, a team they have beaten three times already this season, will be played at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Thursday, with Wigan hosting Leeds in the other semi-final on Friday.

The Rhinos had been expecting to be chosen by the Wolves but coach McDermott will not be taking their decision as a compliment.

"It's an interesting call because it's the first time since ClubCall's inception that the choosers have gone for somebody other than the lowest-ranked team," McDermott said.

"I think it was more to do with the fact they feel they've got the measure of Huddersfield maybe and they have a formula that works for them against Huddersfield.

"I think it was more about them choosing Huddersfield than avoiding us.

"I don't think it's such a huge call but there is a bit of controversy there."

Leeds will go to the DW Stadium with confidence, having won there 20-6 in the last match of the regular season earlier this month.

Wigan coach Wane said: "I didn't give it a great deal of thought. We played both Huddersfield and Leeds a few weeks ago so we were well prepared for either.

"I had a sneaky feeling personally they would go for Huddersfield so it's panned out the way I wanted it to. All our preparations are done.

"I would have liked to have found out earlier but it's the way it is and we've got Leeds.

"It's a tough challenge, we need to improve on our last performance against them."

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