The opening match of day two sees Salford Red Devils face a team who have struggled for the majority of 2018 in the shape of Catalans Dragons. However, Dragons fan Paul Jenkins, a 50 year old who has actively supported the club since moving to the area fourteen years ago, believes things are looking up for the Frenchmen. Salford fan Lewis Brookes has followed the club for around fifteen years and offers the answers for the AJ Bell Stadium club…
1) We are around halfway through the season now – how do you feel your team is doing?
Red Devils: I think the team are performing well with limited resources and a small squad suffering with a few injuries in key positions. I think we are a team to be scared of at the AJ Bell Stadium but our away form isn’t good enough.
Dragons: I’m actually quite happy with the way the season is going. I never really expected us to start well with seventeen players at the World Cup leaving us with a strange pre-season. Also, Steve McNamara is a good coach and has a clear direction for the club in mind. As a manager he is in the same mould as he was as a player – solid and with an unwavering plan at hand. We had huge problems at the club with a certain group of players off the field. They were toxic and the damage they were doing to the younger members of the outfit was masked in part to how good they were on the field. When they went, which they had to, the damage was left behind. It’s taken a Herculean effort to repair that and put in place systems and lifestyle changes that would bear results. This present side is the most talented and balanced side we’ve had for years and it won’t be long before we see what they are capable of. I certainly won’t be surprised to see them finish in the top half and certainly top 8.
2) What is the best match you’ve been to or seen this season of your team and why?
Red Devils: The best game so has to be beating Hull FC at home, great performance attack and defence against a team that will be competing for honours this season.
Dragons: The Wigan match without a doubt. For the first 50 mins no team in Super League would have lived with us and for the last 30 no team would have lived with Wigan. I was at the side of the dugout and at 23-10 to us, I said we’d lost it. The players body language said it all. That attitude needs to be and is being addressed.
3) Who has been the team that have impressed you most so far and why?
Red Devils: St Helens have impressed me this season. In every position they look dangerous and having Ben Barba linking up with the half backs they look like they can score on every play.
Dragons: Leeds. I think McDermott is by far the most gifted coach in SL. I can see similarities between how he works and McNamara. I remember the start of last season where almost every Leeds fan was shouting for him to be sacked yet he worked with what he had and delivered the title. This season he’s kicked on on from that and they’re going to be thereabouts once more. I’m also impressed with what Steve Price has done with Warrington.
4) Who is your team’s player of the season so far?
Red Devils: Josh Wood has really stepped up this season. He makes a big impact coming off the bench. He brings plenty of pace from the play the ball, he is unpredictable and also gets involved in every tackle.
Dragons: For me, Tony Gigot. Everyone knows the problems he’s face last couple of years but he’s getting better each match. He now has discipline and is an asset anywhere in the backs. I think the signing of Drinkwater will prove to be a brilliant one. We now just need a bit more weight in the pack.
5) Which player from your Magic Weekend opponents would you like to see in your team’s shirt?
Red Devils: I would like Brayden Wiliame in my squad. He is a strong, fast centre who knows where the try line is and has plenty of experience for a young player.
Dragons: If I had to pick a player from Salford I’d go with Lee Mossop. He has the weight we are missing in the pack and has a wealth of experience with Wigan.
6) What are your hopes for your Magic Weekend match – do you think you can/will win?
Red Devils: Hopefully we will grab the win against a Catalans team that have struggled this season but look like they are coming in to some form now. If we have a full strength side with Niall Evalds and Rob Lui back from injury we should get the two points.
Dragons: I am looking forward to the Magic Weekend match. For me, the match against Salford can prove to be a springboard and kick us on to the end of the season. On their day Salford are good enough to beat anyone, but I can see us turning this one on.
7) How do you think your season will end up?
Red Devils: My prediction for Salford for the end of the season is 8th position. I think we are a dangerous team but I think injuries may limit our opportunities.
Dragons: As I said earlier, I fully expect us to finish at least in the top 8. Once we gain a bit of momentum, there is more than enough talent in the side to acheive that.
8) What do you think of Magic Weekend?
Red Devils: I love the Magic Weekend, especially in Newcastle. It’s a great city, great stadium and a top weekend of rugby league for both new and regular rugby league viewers. It’s a date I always put in the diary for a good weekend away with friends.
Dragons: I think Magic weekend is a great concept. I’ve never been before and I won’t be there this year as the North of England isn’t easy to get to flying from Perpignan as the furthest North you can get is now Birmingham. I try to get to three or four away games a year if it fits in with my work and I can get to Carcassone to fly over. However, if it moves to Cardiff or London in the near future, I’ll be there. I think more so than the games, the crack around the town will probably be the highlight