Ethan Ryan embracing Salford Red Devils’ style and ‘fresh start’ at new club

From Red Robin to Red Devil, Ethan Ryan is looking forward to a new style of play as Salford plot their way back into the play-offs in 2024. 

NOT all is perhaps what it seems at Salford Red Devils.

While it might appear Paul Rowley’s men play an off-the-cuff, spontaneous style of rugby that has kept neutral supporters entertained for the past few seasons, there is actually some method to the madness.

That’s according to new Reds recruit Ethan Ryan, who is more than ready to get the season, and the next stage of his career underway.

After four years with Hull KR, the 27-year-old will now have to turn left onto the M62 from his Bradford home rather than right, and head to the western side of the Pennines, where he hopes he can return to his best try-scoring days.

After scoring 88 tries in 98 games at Bradford Bulls, he went on to cross 22 times for the Robins in 42 appearances. And now, under the guidance of Rowley, Ryan is hoping he can also make his mark on Salford.

“If you speak to any player, from any other club, about Salford, they’ll tell you that they throw the ball around a lot,” Ryan told Rugby League World.

“I thought it was just like that as well, but since being here I’ve seen it’s not ad-lib play, there is a lot of structure to it and we do a lot of skills practice to execute it. 

“It might look like the ball is just being thrown around, but it’s all planned and it’s been good to come here and learn that. 

“Not many teams play that way, so it’s a very different style and that was part of the attraction.

“I like to play with my eyes up and play what’s in front of me and Salford are all about that. I like how they attack from deep and the systems that are in place here mean we can score from anywhere on the field and that will suit my style of play.

“My ratio of tries wasn’t as good at Hull KR as it was at Bradford, but when I first made the step up to Super League I was just lucky to get a game wherever I could. It wasn’t really until my third year there that I managed to string a good run of games together and score quite a few tries.

“But hopefully I can hit the ground running in 2024 and put a real marker down at Salford.”

If Ryan can return to his try-scoring best it could go somewhere to seeing the Red Devils qualify for the play-offs again, having narrowly missed out by two points to Warrington in 2023.

But the winger knows his new team cannot afford too many slip-ups if they are to right that particular wrong from last season.

“Salford were unfortunate to miss out on the top six last year as there were a few results they feel could have gone the other way,” admitted Ryan, who did feature in the play-offs with Hull KR, losing out to champions Wigan in the semi-finals.

“But we can use that as motivation for this season and learn from those mistakes. 

“There are still of lot of players here from last season that are keen to put things right and hopefully the new guys like myself can come in and add something to what they need to do to get there.

“The race for the top six was so tight all season so if we get that again it will be another great year.

“It was so good to see a season where no one knew until the end who was going to win it. It was more evenly matched and there was never any let up. 

“If that carries on again and you don’t do your homework, or turn up and play your very best, then you’ll get beaten.

“We know that if we can start well, get a few results then confidence will be high and we can build on that.”

Although only formally announced in October, Ryan knew for some time that his future was at Salford.

Hull KR coach Willie Peters informed the Ireland international in the opening months of last season that his contract, which was due to expire at the end of 2023, would not be renewed and that he could explore options elsewhere. 

He very quickly made the decision to join Salford, but that didn’t stop him from giving his all to the Robins, and even got to experience the high of a trip to Wembley before leaving them.

“It’s nice to have a fresh start and to be in a new environment. I’d been at Hull KR for four years so it was a bit nerve-wracking to leave and start something new but I’m really enjoying it,” added Ryan.

“I did appreciate that I was told early that I would not be staying at Hull as it gave me time to find the right club for me and Salford suits me down to the ground.

“I’ve only ever moved clubs twice, and it was a similar situation when I knew I’d be leaving Bradford to join Hull KR, but you’ve got to keep your mind on the job, and I’d like to think it didn’t affect my performances after those moves were agreed. 

“As a player, I always want to go out and do my best whenever I step out onto the field no matter the circumstances and that’s all I tried to do. I was still there to do a job and did that despite being told I would be moving on.

“I’ve left Hull with some great memories, including playing at Wembley. 

“I had never even been to Wembley before as a fan, so to play there on my first visit and be a part of that day was just amazing.

“It would have been topped off if we got the win, but it’s made me hungry for more and I’ll be aiming to do that with Salford.

“We’ve had some success in recent years and we’re all here to see that continue.”

First published in Rugby League World magazine, Issue 492 (January 2024)

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