Chase and Smith, a halfback partnership that was to send shock waves through Super League and was the fulcrum which Marwan Koukash plotted his “Welcome to Hell” tagline upon. Yet the performances of these 2 creative mavericks have been as different as Heaven and Hell.
While Chase has shown his ability to manage, control, change and win games, Smith has yet to come close to the dizzying heights that Chase has achieved during his first games as one of the Doctors Devils.
Even despite Chase missing games at the start of the season following his injury against Wakefield in the season opener Smith, who was expected to come to the fore was outshone by French starlet and fans favourite Theo Fages. The French wonder kid at the present moment does not seem to be in the immediate plans of new Salford coach Harris, but Smiths lacklustre display against the Giants on Good Friday should pave way for the young Frenchman to start against Leeds on Monday alongside Rangi.
Whilst Smiths form might be surprising to most Salford fans, those across the Pennines in Wakefield might not be to shocked. While there is no doubt that Smith has the ability to dazzle and produce moments of brilliance he seems unable to put together a string of consistent performances and at times seems to disappear during crucial periods of the games, a thought echoed by Wildcat fans when the Smith to Salford signing was announced after an offer that was to could to be turned down was put on the table by Koukash.
The question Harris needs to ask and answer very quickly is does the Chase and Smith partnership work? Chase, of course is the “go to guy” at Salford, and rightly so based on his stellar performances in a Devils shirt this season. At Wakefield Smith held this pivotal role but at Salford has to play second fiddle to Chase which seems to affect his game and confidence. The fact Chase and Smith are very similar players in terms of their unpredictability and a taste for trying something magical could also hinder the partnership. Fages would be a more disciplined partner for Rangi and will add balance to partnership, but still has that ability to create an opportunity and burrow over the line.
Salford and Koukash parted with a lot of money to bring in Smith and this could be the deciding factor in who will in the long term partner Chase, but as the Doctor ruthlessly searches for that play off place could he take a loss on the fact that the purchase of Smith has failed and look to get him off the wage bill or allow Smith more games to prove the money in him was well spent?
While there is no doubt Smith has the ability and talent, which we have seen in the past, the ultimate question is can he do this consistently and create a halfback partnership with Chase that can dominate games and propel Salford to the top of Super League and the standards Marwan demands?
Only time will tell, but unfortunately for Smith maybe not as much time as he would wish for.
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