Bad news for Salford is good news for the Tigers

Garry Schofield reflects on Castleford’s signing of Salford fullback Niall Evalds.

THE annual Rugby League merry-go-round is firmly on the move, with Salford’s Niall Evalds on his way to Castleford, his former Red Devils team-mate Josh Jones being linked with a move to Warrington and a question mark against the future of another Hull player, Jamie Shaul, in black and white.

There was some talk of Castleford weighing up a move for Shaul, but it will be Evalds who is the replacement at fullback for Jordan Rankin, with the Aussie set to return Down Under after his contract ends this year.

It’s a great bit of business by Daryl Powell but a huge setback for his opposite number Ian Watson, who, having lost Jones to Hull and Jackson Hastings to Wigan over the close-season, pretty much built his Salford side around Evalds in a bid to maintain the momentum created by last season’s amazing run to the Grand Final.

There was an unusually strong reaction from Salford, who said they had agreed a new and enhanced three-year deal with Evalds to keep him at the AJ Bell Stadium. But as we have seen in the past, a contract only means something when it is signed and sealed – think of Shaun Edwards and Wigan, for example.

There was also a strong reaction from Salford supporters, some of whom seem to have gone over the top in their criticism of the player on social media, which certainly isn’t on, regardless of how disappointing his departure might be.

It’s hard to take when popular and talented players move away, especially when it happens multiple times, but it’s a frustrating fact of life that when a club does as well as Salford have under their excellent coach Watson and chief executive Ian Blease, the bigger fish will come circling.

As Evalds said, there are two sides to every story, and while he has apparently accepted a shorter contract at Castleford, he clearly liked what Daryl Powell had to say and the potential to further develop his career under another very good coach.

It’s exactly the kind of quality signing Castleford need to be making if they are to push that bit further and repeat their feat of 2017 by getting to another Grand Final, and I think Evalds will thrive there and certainly improve the team.

I see them going back to playing the kind of really dynamic and expansive game they produced when Zak Hardaker was at fullback, and I reckon Evalds will enjoy playing under Powell and on that tight pitch, he will prove to be a real handful.

As for Josh Jones, he has never looked settled at Hull, with the commute from Lancashire seemingly more of a toil than a pleasure, and I remember that last match before lockdown, the 38-4 home defeat by Warrington, which proved to be Lee Radford’s last as coach, when the player’s body language suggested frustration.

He’s a top-quality forward, and while you can see why Hull were so pleased to get him on a two-year deal, it’s no good having a player who isn’t happy, and if I were Hull owner Adam Pearson, I would cut my losses and try to get as good a transfer fee as possible.

Jamie Shaul, on the other hand, is Hull-born and bred, and while it’s said he is happy at the KCOM Stadium, he has now lost his mentor in Radders, and, being out of contract, like a number of players there, he is bound to attract interest from elsewhere. We’ll see what develops!