As the 2018 Super League season opener draws closer, we look at how Salford Red Devils will go in 2018.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Luke Burgess (Catalans Dragons), Jack Littlejohn (Wests Tigers), Tyrone McCarthy (St George Illawarra Dragons), Ben Nakubuwai (Gold Coast Titans), Levy Nzoungou (Toulouse Olympique), Derrell Olpherts (Newcastle Thunder), Manu Vatuvei (New Zealand Warriors), Gavin Bennion (Rochdale Hornets)
Michael Dobson (returned to Australia), Justin Carney (Hull Kingston Rovers), Olsi Krasniqi (Toronto Wolfpack), Ben Murdoch-Masila (Warrington Wolves), Adam Walne (Huddersfield Giants), Jordan Walne (Hull Kingston Rovers)
Wigan Warriors (H), Wakefield Trinity (A), Hull Kingston Rovers (H), St Helens (A), Castleford Tigers (A)
WHAT TO EXPECT
In 2017, Salford Red Devils stormed into the Super 8’s by finishing the regular season in fourth place, somewhat of a surprise to most. While their fans were dreaming of a trip to Old Trafford it all came to a halt in the second stage of their campaign, as they picked up just one victory in their final seven fixtures. Missing out on a semi-final spot was a disappointment considering how the Red Devils had finished after 23 rounds, however avoiding the bottom four was a relief. This year, though, it could be tougher as they have lost some key players who made a huge difference last season.
Losing Michael Dobson is a massive blow, as he had struck up a great partnership with Robert Lui, but their biggest loss will be Ben Murdoch-Masila. With 14 tries (only Niall Evalds scored more for the club last term) the powerful second rower was their best player in 2017, which led to interest from a number of clubs. Warrington Wolves won the race to sign Murdoch-Masila, and his powerful presence will be missed in the Salford forward pack.
Luke Burgess and Tyrone McCarthy are astute signings for the club, and will go a long way to filling the void left by Murdoch-Masila’s departure. They may not have his explosive power, but they will definitely strengthen the Red Devils’ pack. Although Manu Vatuvei joined the club in 2017 he only linked up with Salford for their final eight games, crossing for five tries in that time. The former New Zealand Warrior’s fan favourite could play a massive part in their top eight hopes in his first full season at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Ian Watson’s side face a very tough start to 2018, with Wigan Warriors visiting in round one before a trip to Wakefield Trinity. Newly promoted Hull Kingston Rovers then come to Salford before difficult trips to St Helens and Castleford Tigers. If they are hoping to replicate last season’s success they will need to hit the ground running and pick up some shock wins in a tricky start to their campaign.
Top Tryscorer – Manu Vatuvei
Top Pointscorer – Gareth O’Brien
Club Player of the Year – Gareth O’Brien
WHERE WILL SALFORD RED DEVILS FINISH?
2017 was a great year for the club, but they will have their work cut out if they are to stake a claim for a top four spot again this year. Salford to finish ninth after the regular season and avoid relegation.