2015 Super League preview: Salford Red Devils

The importance of a strong pre-season is not lost on Salford Red Devils coach Iestyn Harris, who is well aware of the need to pick up where they left off last season.

After beating 2013 League Leaders Shield winners Huddersfield Giants 36-10 in July, Harris’ side went on to pick up five more wins in the last eight games. Although that late surge came just too late to make the play-offs, Harris knows that by building on that and doing the right things over the winter months they can get closer to the targets that owner Marwan Koukash wants to achieve.

Koukash declared at the start of last season that Salford would soon be a top-four club. While it was always going to be a tough ask to achieve that overnight, Harris believes that the club is doing everything right to keep moving in the right direction.

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“The whole identity of a squad is built in pre-season,” explained Harris.

“You can’t skip, or not work hard in a pre-season and then expect to perform in season. We are building our identity from the bottom up and we are fortunate that we have the nucleus of our squad in place early and can work from that.

“We believe we have the dynamics and chemistry right, so hopefully that will come to fruition and we will have a good season.


“We finished last season strongly and now have to build on that. People talk about the structure of clubs and making sure everyone knows what that is, but it takes time.

“As we got to the end of last season the players were a lot more comfortable with what we were asking of them and they knew their roles better, so we hope to get that throughout pre-season this time and hit those early rounds with everyone knowing what our expectations of them are.

“We have chosen pre-season games against Swinton, Dewsbury and Featherstone because we wanted a real challenge and to put our players out of their comfort zones. That is a big part of what want to achieve in pre-season, so I’m really happy we have those games lined up.

“But we want next season to be about actions and not words, and we are looking forward to getting out there and getting the season started.”

When the Salford squad numbers were announced last month, it was almost certainly the strongest group the club has had in Super League.
Eleven new signings have arrived at the AJ Bell Stadium, bringing with them a balanced mix of experience and youth.

In have come Ben Jones-Bishop, a Grand Final winner from Leeds Rhinos, and proven leader Michael Dobson, who has returned to Super League from the NRL’s Newcastle Knights, while former Leeds and Castleford forward Weller Hauraki and Scott Taylor, who Harris previously worked with at Wigan, will bring with them much experience.

Last week the Red Devils announced the signing of former Hull KR star Cory Paterson from Wests Tigers. And at the younger end of the squad Carl Forster, Liam Hood, Luke Menzies and George Griffin are looking to make a name for themselves in Super League, leaving promising centre Brad England and Australian prop Matt Groat to make up the new recruits.

“We work hard and everyone is buying into that,” added Harris.


“A strong work ethic is coming through the group and we all work desperately hard for each other and have a great chemistry. Add that to the ability we have got in the team there is no reason why we shouldn’t do well this season.

“Ben comes in with a winning mentality from Leeds and will give us raw speed out wide, which is always a real bonus. He is one of the best in the game at finishing opportunities and we are looking for him to bring all that into the group.

“The big thing with Michael is his leadership and his ability to control the game. Understanding how to control a game and when to kick comes with time and Michael has proven in the past how good he is at doing that.

“Cory brings aggression and experience, and he spent a season playing with Michael at Hull KR in 2013.

“The biggest thing Weller brings to us is his training level. He trains at the same high standard consistently and we pride ourselves on doing that at Salford so he has fitted into the group really well.

“Scott has come on really well in his time at Wigan and he is another who always trains at the level he plays at. We wanted to bring people to the club that have that required intensity every day, as it is then a natural progression to success on game day.

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“Carl has come in and has been working hard and putting the extras in, but he has still got some work to do to get to where he needs to be physically. We are confident, though, that if he progresses as much as he has in the first month or so of pre-season then he will force his way into the team.

“Liam has some subtleties in his game and everyone is aware there is some real talent there. He is very eager and keen to succeed here and the energy he and the other youngsters have brought in has been refreshing.

“There are players in the Championship that are ready to step up to Super League. Luke has the attitude to go to the next level and we are confident he can improve to become a regular for us.


“Whenever you bring somebody in you need to know that they will sit well with the dynamics of the group. With George’s older brothers Darrell and Josh already at the club I spoke to them and quickly knew he would fit in. George wants to take his game to the next level and we will try to give him everything he needs in pre-season to do that.

“Brad has come through the Leeds system but hasn’t had the opportunity has craves. He comes to us with a good reputation and is working hard. He is only in the early stages of his career and has to push himself to the limit to force way into the team.

“Matt hasn’t arrived yet but we have seen the videos and know what he can do, but we just need to get working with him first hand.”

Add all of this to the fact that last year’s mid-season signings such as Kevin Locke, Mason Caton-Brown and Josh Griffin, as well as Harris himself, who joined the club in April, can all benefit from a full pre-season at the club and there are definite grounds for optimism.

“I am a big believer in consistency and not having a huge turnover of players, but sometimes you need to do that until you get some stability in your squad,” concluded Harris.

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“I was really keen to get some fresh faces in at relevant times throughout last season so that they got to know the systems of the club early on. That way, when we started this pre-season we had a nucleus of players that knew exactly how things work here.

“When you have that, the younger guys and the new arrivals catch up pretty quickly and that is working how we want it to at the moment.”


SALFORD RED DEVILS 2015 squad: 1 Kevin Locke, 2 Ben Jones-Bishop, 3 Josh Griffin, 4 Junior Sa’u, 5 Greg Johnson, 6 Rangi Chase, 7 Michael Dobson, 8 Adrian Morley, 9 Tommy Lee, 10 Lama Tasi, 11 Harrison Hansen, 12 Weller Hauraki, 13 Gareth Hock, 14 Theo Fages, 15 Darrell Griffin, 16 Scott Taylor, 17 Jordan Walne, 18 Mason Caton-Brown, 19 Niall Evalds, 20 Adam Walne, 21 Tony Puletua, 22 Jason Walton, 23 Andrew Dixon, 24 Liam Hood, 25 George Griffin, 26 Carl Forster, 27 Luke Menzies, 28 Jon Ford, 29 Brad England, 30 Matty Gee, 31 Matt Groat, 32 Cory Paterson.

INS: Ben Jones-Bishop (Leeds Rhinos – winger), Michael Dobson (Newcastle Knights – scrum-half), Weller Hauraki (Castleford Tigers – second row), Scott Taylor (Wigan Warriors – prop), Liam Hood (Hunslet Hawks – hooker), George Griffin (London Broncos – second row), Carl Forster (St Helens – prop), Luke Menzies (Swinton Lions – prop), Brad England (Leeds Rhinos – centre), Cory Paterson (Wests Tigers – prop)

OUTS: Jake Mullaney (Bradford Bulls), Danny Williams (Bradford Bulls), Tim Smith (Wakefield), Matthew Ashurst (Wakefield). Retired: Martin Gleeson, Francis Meli. Released: Stuart Haworth, Steve Rapira, Jordan Davies, Gareth Owen, Will Hope, Shannon McPherson (mid-season),

Head coach: Iestyn Harris
Assistant coach: Ian Watson
Academy coach: Martin Gleeson
Head of strength and conditioning: Richard Hunwicks
Performance manager: Russell McFarlane

Dewsbury Rams (A) – January 11; Swinton Lions (H) – January 17; Featherstone Rovers (A) – January 23.