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Last Updated: Monday, 28 August 2006, 22:06 GMT 23:06 UK
Saint or sinner
By Phil Gordos

Sean Long (right) celebrates Great Britain's win over New Zealand in June
The challenge for Long (right) is to shine on the international stage

Sean Long is a man who divides opinion.

Whether it's his latest hairstyle or his latest act of genius on the pitch, it seems every rugby league fan has a view of the St Helens scrum-half.

Some players prefer to keep a low profile, happy that the media spotlight is on anyone but themselves.

Others relish the attention and positively flourish when the cameras are trained on their every move.

Long appears to fall in the latter category.

Whether by design or accident, the 29-year-old Wiganer always seems to be a hot topic of conversation.

He found himself all over the front and back pages after being caught betting on his own team to lose in 2004.

The misdemeanour earned him a three-month ban from the game, forced him to hide out from the press in a caravan hidden somewhere in Blackpool, and cost him an estimated 50,000 in legal bills, fines and lost wages.

He turned from villain to victim in 2005, when he needed two metal plates inserted to repair a broken cheekbone.

Terry Newton's illegal use of forearm and elbow also caused the 2002 Man of Steel to lose some feeling in his face, not to mention his place in the Great Britain side for the Tri-Nations.

Now Long has re-written the history books by becoming the first player to win the coveted Lance Todd Trophy three times.

Yet the debate continues to rage.

Is he one of the game's greats? Can he produce his scintillating club form on the international and help Great Britain conquer Australia and New Zealand?

Here are some views of readers of the BBC Sport website:

  • "He's got talent, there's no doubt about that but he is not one of the game's greats."

  • "He'll never be an 'all-time' great because of his performance (or lack of) at international level."

  • "He is hardly known or recognised in Oz and the people that do know him do not rate him from what they have seen in Tests."

  • "I'd like to see him in a poor side and see how he plays then. Like a lot have said, it is easy to shine out when your team is playing an all-round better standard than most of your opposition."

  • "Class player, of that there is little doubt. However, as a person, I wouldn't give him the time of day. Anyone who can bet on his 'team-mates' to lose is nothing in my eyes."

  • "Unless he starts putting in quality performances for GB, he cannot be considered world-class. When he's under pressure for GB and we are not dominating a game, his kicking game is nowhere near as good as club level. It's a case of roll on the Tri-Nations and let's see if he cut the mustard on the biggest stage of all against the Aussies and Kiwis."

With St Helens on top of the Super League table and just one win away from the League Leaders' Trophy, Long could soon be getting his hands on some more silverware.

Then there is another Grand Final victory to aim for, too.

But, as some of the messages above point out, he needs to shine for GB if he is to have a shot at silencing the critics.

And even if he was to inspire the Lions to success in the Tri-Nations at the end of the year, he would still have his knockers.

Because Long is someone who will always divide opinion.

Record-breaker Long in dreamland
26 Aug 06 |  Challenge Cup
Lance Todd Trophy winners
26 Aug 06 |  Challenge Cup
Huddersfield 12-42 St Helens
26 Aug 06 |  Challenge Cup


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