Well if your just catching your breathe from a very special adventure in 2019 the 2020 season is just around the corner.
A tremendous run took Salford into the playoffs finishing the regular season in third place. A narrow defeat away to Wigan 18-12 seemed to galvanise Ian Watson’s side and that little bit of extra belief served them so well. Castleford were put to the sword 22-0 at the AJ Bell Stadium in an elimination game. This gave Salford another crack at Wigan. The Warriors were well beaten at St. Helens which saw the Saints progress to the Grand Final.
Salford crushed Wigan 4-28 in their own backyard on what was a very special night for everyone involved with the club.
Grand Final week was something I’ve never experienced before but it was utterly amazing. Salford RLFC seemed to be catapulted on to the main stage capturing the imagination of not only the people of Salford but the people of Greater Manchester and beyond.
St. Helens were a tough opponent to face at Old Trafford. Justin Holbrook’s team had set the bench mark with some sensational performances as the most consistent team of the year.
The Grand final didn’t go Salford’s way but yet again the team did the supporters proud with another honest, hard working performance.
It’s fair to say Salford Red Devil’s gained many friends and admirers in 2019. Their is now a solid foundation to build on off the pitch. Some fantastic players have moved on with Jackson Hastings and Jake Bibby joining Wigan, George Griffin and Derrell Olpherts have moved to West Yorkshire to join Castleford Tigers and Josh Jones has signed for Hull. Both Hastings and Jones were selected for Great Britain in the autumn and it’s fair to say both players will be greatly missed.
Salford supporters remain in positive mood though with a host of shrewd new signings bolstering the 2020 squad. Some might say their is a better balance now with good options and competition for places in all positions.
After last seasons heroics, expectations amongst Salford’s loyal followers have definitely risen. It promises to be another thrilling season.
Chris Atkin, will join a long list of players to represent both Swinton and Salford. A player with a neat kicking game and good organisational skills who can operate in a number of positions. Many Hull Kingston Rovers supporters were surprised to see Chris leave Craven Park at the end of last season. A very accomplished goal kicker and quite a drop goal specialist Atkin is going to be a crucial cog in Ian Watson’s side.
Kevin Brown, this player needs no introduction to Salford supporters. In previous seasons kevin has been a thorn in the Red Devil’s side countless times when playing for Widnes and Huddersfield. Kevin’s professional debut came in 2003 for Wigan Warriors. Some excellent displays and a very good try record for Wigan made Browns move to Huddersfield in 2006 a surprise one. In 2013 a move to Widnes came along and kevin again became a real talisman. Plenty of tries and man of the match displays made him a real fan’s favourite.Another surprise move to Widnes’s rivals Warrington saw Kevin play in both the Grand Final and Challenge Cup final of 2018. Disappointingly finishing on the losing side in both matches. Brown has bags of big game experience and a terrific knowledge of the sport he knows inside out. He has represented Great Britain and England playing standoff in 2017 WorldCup final. At 35 years of age kevin still has plenty to offer. You can see the glint in his eye that their are still things he wants to achieve in the sport. Some unfinished business perhaps.
James Greenwood, eagle eyed supporters may remember James playing for Salford during the middle eights in 2015. He is the older brother of Joe Greenwood who plays at Wigan. James has spent the past four seasons at Hull Kingston Rovers. A big favourite with the Robins faithful many were surprised to see him move on. Born in Oldham, James played amateur rugby league for Saddleworth Rangers before coming through the Wigan Warriors academy. He will certainly add size to the pack and possesses a clever off load game.
Pauli Pauli, Salford supporters caught a glimpse of what this man could do last season. A short loan spell mid season from Wakefield Trinity impressed coach Ian Watson. A very powerful runner who likes to link up on the edges. He can be very dangerous close to the opposition try line with his huge size and go forward ability. At 6ft 4 inches tall Pauli will be a big handful to stop. Salford’s 2020 pack is looking very big and strong! Perhaps one to be feared.
Dan Sarginson, another player with vast Super League experience despite only being 26 years old. After impressive seasons as a youngster for Harlequins/London Broncos a move to Wigan came for the start of the 2014 season. After two Grand Final appearances for the Warriors Sarginson moved to the NRL to sign for Gold Coast Titans in 2017. After a bad shoulder injury ended his season in Australia this paved a return to Wigan. In 2018 Dan played in the Grand Final Victory over Warrington.Sarginson has big game experience which will be very important in 2020.
Connor Jones, coming through the academy system at Canterbury Bulldogs his impressive form for Featherstone Rovers caught the eye of many Super League and Championship clubs. Rovers excellent form in 2019 took them to the Grand Final. Jones certainly played his part with some fantastic performances. He’s a hooker with a great turn of pace and eye for the try line. With Logan Tomkins moving on to Widnes Jones will have a key role to play supporting Joey Lussick in the hooking role.
Jack Ormondroyd, joining from Featherstone Rovers. Jack has also played for Leeds Rhinos and York City Knights. At 6ft 5 and well over 16 stone he will certainly take some stopping. Jack was born in Bradford and his dad Ian was a professional footballer who played over 350 games for clubs including Bradford City, Derby County, Leicester City and Oldham Athletic. Ian is a similar height to Jack and was quite a handy striker. Now aged 28 Jack is primed to make his mark in Super League with Salford.
Luke Yates, born in to the mining community of Newcastle in New South Wales. Luke began his professional career with Newcastle Knights. Moving to England for the 2019 season was a big step signing a one year deal with London Broncos. Luke’s brother is on a two year visa in England so the two of them lived together last season. What a season it was not only with Luke playing some tremendous rugby which got him plenty of admirers but also the London Broncos amazing Super League journey. It finished in disappointment but the Broncos did themselves proud and are sure to be in the hunt for promotion in 2020. Luke is a work horse with a terrific engine, some may say a tackling machine but he also has plenty other attributes in his locker. A very strong runner who can off load and put people through the gap. Now living on Salford Quays Luke is very excited for the season ahead. I caught up with him recently and he said, “watto has been great he’s really technical which is what I like. Tackling is part of my job and that’s why salford have brought me here. I love doing the hard stuff and watching the boys get on the back of it.”
Rhys Williams, has played for Salford before having spent time on loan at the AJ Bell Stadium in 2013. The Welsh international winger had a tremendous try record for his previous club London Broncos and has scored 21 tries for Wales in 26 matches since 2008. Rhys professional career began with Warrington were yet again he scored plenty of tries. While at Warrington he spent time on loan at Crusaders, Castleford and Swinton finding the try line at all three clubs. He’s certainly not the tallest winger but has an excellent turn of pace and is a very strong runner, deceptively powerful particularly close to the try line.
Elliot Kear, Salford’s third signing from London Broncos. Born in Cardiff, Kear is another Welsh international winger with plenty of speed off the mark. A player with bags of experience having played for Crusaders RL, Bradford Bulls and the Broncos. His versatility could be very valuable in 2020. As well as being a very good winger Kear can play centre or fullback.
Ryan Lannon, Salford supporters are delighted to see this guy back. Ryan came through Salford’s academy system and progressed really well going on to captain the young side. He made his first team debut in 2015. A move to Hull Kingston Rovers for the start of the 2019 season came as a surprise to many at the AJ Bell Stadium. Ryan came back on loan last season with Daniel Murray moving in the opposite direction. Coach Ian Watson was very pleased last year with Ryan’s performances and the loan deal became permanent. Despite being just 23years old Ryan has plenty of matches under his belt and has the potential to play International Rugby league in the future. 2020 could be a pivotal season for the back rower from Wigan who’s always got a grin on his face.
Sebastine Ikahihifo, was born in Auckland New Zealand and is of Tongan descent. Debuting for Auckland Warriors in 2012, Sebastine has spent the last four seasons in West Yorkshire at Huddersfield Giants. His powerhouse displays have really made him stand out and in 2017 he was selected in the Super League Dream Team. At 6ft and almost 17 stone he joins what looks a very tough and sizeable pack at Salford.
Players moving on.
George Griffin has signed for Castleford Tigers. George has been a real cornerstone of Salford’s pack in recent seasons. His all action displays, fearless tackling and phenomenal game time made him a firm fans favourite.
Joining George at Castleford is Derrell Olpherts. Signing from Newcastle Thunder after two fantastic seasons up North Derrell forced his way into Ian Watson’s side. A powerful ball returner and good finisher. Olpherts form dipped last season which saw him drop out of Salford’s first team and he will be looking to get his career kick started in 2020 in a talented Tigers side.
Daniel Murray has moved on to Hull Kingston Rovers. Many supporters were disappointed with this news as Daniel has really blossomed at Salford. He arrived in 2017 after captaining the Warrington Wolves academy. At 6ft 2 he’s a strong lad with a good turn of pace. A very strong defender who gets through lots of work. I am sure Daniel will be looking forward to working with Tony Smith again in 2020.
Greg Johnson has joined Bradford Bulls. Greg was one of Salford’s longest serving players after signing from Batley in 2014. With over 100 appearances for The Red Devil’s Greg averaged almost a try every other game with is a fantastic return. At 29 years of age he still has some good years in him and I am sure John Kear at Bradford will reap the rewards.
Josh Jones has signed for Hull Fc. One of Salford’s most consistent players of recent years. Hard work was rewarded with selection on the Great Britain tour in the Autumn. Josh has had four excellent seasons for Salford and at 26 years of age he is now coming in to his prime years as a player.
Jackson Hastings and Jake Bibby have both signed for Wigan. Hastings has put the smiles back on everyone’s face at Salford. He’s helped lift the club to a new level with some breath taking performances and his sheer hard work and attitude. A once in a generation type of player Jackson is held in high regard by everyone at Salford Red Devil’s. A player that we will never forget. Jake Bibby joins his home town club after some great service to Salford. Another young player who has gone from strength to strength. An excellent try record, super finisher and all round really nice lad. At 23 years of age he now has the world at his feet and it will be great to see him keep progressing at Wigan. Their will certainly be competition for places at the Warriors but Jake has the talent to break into that side.
Logan Tomkins has moved on to Widnes Vikings. New Vikings coach Tim Sheens knows all about Logan from his time coaching at Salford. Tomkins worked his heart out at Salford at its a real shame to see him move on. Playing on loan in 2014 and 2015 Tomkins signed a permanent deal in 2016. A tough tackler and a man that gets through tons of work. At 27 Logan has plenty of Rugby left in him and I for one would love to see him back playing Super League in the near future.
Josh Wood has been so unlucky with injuries particularly last season. Another player with so much promise and potential. A fantastic defender who plays way above his weight. Josh made his Salford debut in 2015 and his steady progression made him a first team regular. Still only 24 years of age Josh has signed for Super League side Wakefield Trinity for 2020. Like Salford, Wakefield have a very talented, young British coach in Chris Chester. Everyone at Salford wishes Josh all the luck in the world for the new season.
Ben Nakubuwai has moved on. Another young player who has a lot of potential. I am sure all the Salford supporters will wish Ben all the best for the future as well as Adam Lawton who has joined Newcastle Thunder.
Salford’s Super League Record.
1997, Final League position 6th out of 12 teams.
1998, Final League Position 11th out of 12 teams.
1999, Final League Position 12th out of 14 teams.
2000, Final League Position 9th out of 12 teams.
2001, Final League Position 10th out of 12 teams.
2002, Final League Position 12th out of 12 teams, relegated.
2004, Final League Position 9th out of 12 teams.
2005, Final League Position 9th out of 12 teams.
2006, Final League Position 5th out of 12 teams.
2007, Final League Position 12th out of 12 teams, relegated.
2009, Final League Position 13th out of 14 teams.
2010, Final League Position 12th out of 14 teams.
2011, Final League Position 11th out of 14 teams.
2012, Final League Position 11th out of 14 teams.
2013, Final League Position 14th out of 14 teams.
2014, Final League Position 10th out of 14 teams.
2015, Final League Position 11th out of 12 teams.
3rd in the Qualifiers.
2016, Final League Position 10th out of 12 teams.
5th in the Qualifiers. Million pound game winners.
2017, Final League Position 4th out of 12 teams.
7th in the Super Eight playoffs.
2018, Final League Position 11th out of 12 teams.
1st in the Qualifiers.
2019, Final League Position 3rd out of 12 teams.
Beaten In the Grand final. 6-23 by St. Helens.
What can Salford supporters expect in 2020? It’s certainly a tough start with a visit to St. Helens for our opening league match. It will be just over 40 years when that match kicks off since we last won that fixture. After that we then have a consecutive run of four home fixtures. Super league is a very tough competition with consistency being the key to success. Coach Ian Watson will leave now stone unturned along with his staff going in to the finest detail possible. With three pre season games lined up Watson and his assistant Paul Rowley will be running the rule over the players in order to get their best squad of 19 players.
Belief, togetherness and team spirit can take you a long way as we saw last season. Unity is very very powerful!
The pre season games are as follows,
Salford v Swinton Sunday 5th January 1pm kick off.
Salford v Leigh Saturday 11th January 12pm kick off.
Warrington v Salford Thursday 23rd January 7:45pm kick off.
Have a fantastic Christmas and all the best for the new year, stay safe and enjoy the season ahead.
Steve McCormick, @steve6394, Manchester Evening news.