By Alan Domville
Salford will be our visitors at The Halliwell Jones Stadium for the second time this season on Friday and apart from maintaining our second place in the Super League table we will be anxious to make up for the shock 12-36 defeat the Red Devils inflicted upon us on Good Friday.
Heartened by our terrific attacking display in the first half that settled the issue against the Broncos in London last Saturday along with our excellent work in defence we will certainly be starting as favourites.
We will be without Chris Hill once again however, our co-captain having been suspended for two matches. Luther Burrell, who made his debut in the capital, may make his first match appearance at The Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Salford were on the cusp of the top five last week but a home defeat against Huddersfield was a huge disappointment for the Red Devils.
Overall, however, they have proved to be one of the surprise packages of the season, averaging more than 25 points a game and have one of the highest points differences in the table.
Their 36 at the HJ came courtesy of tries for Kris Welham, Joey Lussick, Daniel Murray, Rob Lui, Jake Bibby and eight goals from Inu; we replied with tries by Blake Austin and Bryson Goodwin and two goals for Stefan Ratchford.
The Reds have undergone a number of changes in personnel since that game over the Easter weekend.
Head coach Ian Watson’s deputy, former Wire Martin Gleeson, departed this week to join the Rugby Union side Wasps as assistant attack coach while Australian star half back Lui has gone to Leeds Rhinos as part of a deal that brought Tongan international half back Tui Lolohea to the AJ Bell Stadium.
Winger Derrell Olpherts had a loan spell with Castleford last month and has signed for the Tigers for 2020. In return, Cas half back Jamie Ellis went to Salford and he too will be staying with the Reds.
Similarly, centre Junior Sa’u was loaned to Wakefield with forward Pauli Pauli coming the other way and while that arrangement has also been concluded it has been hinted that the latter will be joining the Reds next year.
At the same time back rower Ryan Lannon returned to the club after a loan spell with Hull Kingston Rovers.
Also Castleford-bound is forward George Griffin, currently sidelined with an injury.
This will certainly now be the final season at the AJ Bell for half-back Jackson Hastings whose move to Wigan as a replacement for Canberra-bound George Williams for next season has now been confirmed; winger Bibby will also be joining the Warriors. In addition, Hull have recruited the outstanding forward Josh Jones for next season.
Such is the penalty for success. The inspirational Ian Watson, now in his fourth year with the club, has turned Salford into a formidable force on a limited budget only to have so many of his players targeted by rival clubs.
The Reds have also lost the services of Jansin Turgut who is recovering from a serious accident in Ibiza and Ed Chamberlain who sustained a season-ending ACL injury. Prop Lee Mossop has also missed a fair bit of the campaign with an injury.
Nevertheless, the Reds still have a plethora of talent in their ranks.
Niall Evalds is one of Super League’s top full backs while in the centres the New Zealand international centre Inu, signed from Widnes earlier in the season, and Welham, once of Hull KR, provide a wealth of experience.
In the pack there are a host of props with undoubted staying power that’s much needed now that substitutions have been reduced. Gil Dudson and Greg Burke, both formerly of Widnes, Scottish international Adam Walker, ex-Wigan star Lee Mossop and ex-NRL stars Ken Sio, formerly of Newcastle Knights, and Lussick who previously played with Manly Sea Eagles, give Watson the luxury, or headache, of whom to select.
Another, Daniel Murray, is currently on loan at Hull KR.
The captain is loose forward Mark Flanagan whose previous clubs were Wigan, Wests Tigers and St Helens.
Logan Tomkins makes a lot of metres from the ruck and ex-Wire Tyrone McCarthy, who also plays at loose forward, needs no introduction.
In addition to McCarthy, players who have worn the colours of both teams in their careers are Stefan Ratchford and forwards Ben Murdoch-Masila and Lama Tasi.
Our former captain Adrian Morley is also a proud Salfordian and among others to have appeared for both sides are Andy and Mike Gregory, Richie Myler, Gareth O’Brien, Alan Hunte, Phil Ford, Mike Wainwright and Vinnie Anderson.