After disappointing in the regular Super League fixtures last year, Salford impressed in the Middle Eights. Here is a look to see if they can build on their performances at the back end of last year.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Gil Dudson (Widnes Vikings), Adam Lawton (West Bank Bears ARLFC), Ken Sio (Newcastle Knights), Jansin Turgut (Hull FC), Adam Walker (return from ban).
Gavin Bennion (Swinton Lions), Kris Brining (Released), Luke Burgess (Retired), Weller Hauraki (Hull KR), Craig Kopczak (Wakefield Trinity), Ryan Lannon (Hull KR), Jack Littlejohn (Released), Levy Nzoungou (Hull FC), Lama Tasi (Warrington Wolves).
Huddersfield Giants (A), London Broncos (H), Leeds Rhinos (H), Hull KR (A), St Helens (H).
WHAT TO EXPECT
Salford finished last season in 11th position. The club should be looking to improve on that position and at least be aiming for 8th in 2019. Being relegated shouldn’t be a worry and the spine of Niall Evalds, Robert Lui, Jackson Hastings and Joey Lussick. This combination could make them a dark horse this season.
A player who will have a huge influence on where they will finish the season is Jackson Hastings. Firstly, there’s his obvious talent. He is a former Junior Kangaroo and also represented New South Wales Under-20s. His guidance from half back ensured that Salford survived the Middle Eights last year. Hastings will also be on the look for an NRL contract and will relish facing the likes Wigan, Warrington and St Helens. The Australian halfback has made a huge difference to the club since his arrival last July off the pitch. Hastings has quickly understood that while Salford are not the best supported team in Super League, their core support live, breathe and bleed the club. He recognises the importance of community and has bought into the ethos of the club which has brought a feel-good factor which could translate to good performances on the pitch.
Keeping hold of Hastings for the 2019 was the best bit of business Salford have done for the coming season. This is closely followed by the signing of Ken Sio. The former Hull KR fan favourite was one of the best wingers in the league before he moved to Newcastle he continued to have a decent record, scoring 12 tries in 20 appearances last year. Salford have taken a risk in adding Adam Lawton and Adam Walker to their pack. Lawton is a man mountain, standing at 6ft 6 and could cause many defences problems. However it has been his attitude which has been questioned at previous clubs. Walker returns from a 20 month drugs ban. He failed to make an impression at St Helens but if he can return to the form he showed at Wakefield in the 2016 season then Salford will have a decent replacement for Craig Kopzcak.
Their first few fixtures will give a good indicator of what is to come for Salford in 2019. Three out of the five opening fixtures come against teams who were also in the Middle Eights last year. If they can get results against those teams then they should start to look at being a mid-table side.
Top Tryscorer – Jake Bibby
Top Pointscorer – Robert Lui
Club Player of the Year – Jackson Hastings
WHERE WILL SALFORD RED DEVILS FINISH?