Salford forge new Ghanaian partnership

Salford Red Devils will announce their new coaching team this Friday.

But in the meantime, they have signed Widnes Vikings winger Deon Cross on a one-year deal, with the option for a further year and they have also forged a unique partnership with the Rugby League Federation of Ghana.

Cross, 25, had a successful season in 2021, winning the Try of the Year and Fans’ Player of the Year awards at the Vikings.

St Helens born Cross is a product of the Blackbrook club from where he joined the St Helens Scholarship programme before returning to his amateur club following his release by St Helens in 2013. From there he represented England Lions Under-18s.

He returned to the professional ranks with Rochdale Hornets in 2018 followed by a season with Barrow in 2019.

He joined the Vikings in 2020 while making it clear that his ambition was to become a full-time Super League player.

“I’m really excited about the move; Super League has been the target since i started playing rugby,” said Cross.

“Salford is a fantastic club who have reached new heights more than once over the last few seasons and I hope I can help this club achieve again.”

Salford director of rugby and operations Ian Blease added: “It’s no wonder why Deon was voted the fans’ Player of the Year this season at Widnes. He’s a very talented winger who is still young, so has plenty of time to develop his game even further.

“Being around the likes of Ken Sio, Joe Burgess and Rhys Williams, who are all established Super League players, can only help Deon mature and improve.”

The focus of the club’s agreement with the Ghanaian federation will be to support the further development of Rugby League in the African nation by providing coach and player development programmes and supporting the marketing and promotion of the sport in the country.

The ‘Salford Red Devils Ghana National Rugby League Development Centre’ will be the main feature of the partnership, where three development coaches will be funded by the club.

Salford will also provide mentoring and technical advice as well as sharing best practice on training, strength and conditioning programmes and nutrition advice.

The development coaches will be invited to Salford in mid-2022 to work with their coaching staff, observe training sessions, look at the club’s systems and visit community clubs and schools.

Salford staff will then visit Ghana later in the year to deliver training sessions, work with players and staff and support the development work.

Jafaru Mustapha, RLFG general manager, noted: “Rugby League Federation Ghana, our players, staff and community cannot wait to get started with the Red Devils. We look forward to welcoming them to Accra and showing Salford our progress since 2012. With next year being our tenth in the game, we are ready to learn all we can from the club and make big strides in 2022.”

Middle East Africa regional director, Remond Safi, added: “This partnership will pave the way to a new era in RLFG and Africa, capturing the raw talent of the next generation. The relationship will add value to the foundation of the sport on the continent and open opportunities for players, coaches, match officials and in administrative pathways.

“Salford Red Devils embarking on this unique partnership with Ghana is setting a blueprint for others to follow, with an ambition of bringing new audience and developing new experiences for fans and the sport.”

Ghana head coach, Andy Gilvary, commented: “This partnership has come at exactly the right time for us. With more players, volunteers, clubs, and supporters than ever before, Salford will be able to steer the next generation of Rugby League enthusiasts in the country.

“The hope is we will see Ghanaian players representing Salford in the Super League at some point in the future along with their club identity being embedded across the nation. Ghana remains committed to being the number one Rugby League playing nation in Africa and we know Salford will help us to get there.”

The Red Devils will be observing the player development programmes in Ghana, with opportunities available to join the club’s player pathway scheme where appropriate.

Salford director, Paul Trainor, said: “We are delighted to launch this partnership supporting the development of Rugby League in Ghana. There is already great work going on and we look forward to continuing to raise the profile of Rugby League across Ghana, as well as contributing to the success of their national team.”

The club will also be providing a joint-branded range of kit for players and staff designed by suppliers VX3. Replica kit will also be sent over to RLFG staff to distribute in their communities.

Paul King, Salford Red Devils Executive Chairman, confirmed: “Ghana has a tremendous history of producing world class athletes across many sporting arenas. The opportunity to be able to tap into this incredible talent pool whilst also introducing the Salford brand to over 30 million new pairs of eyes is tremendously exciting.

“We are committing time, energy and resources to this partnership to ensure its success over a prolonged period and are delighted to lead the way with the first arrangement of its type on the African continent.”

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