Salford are set to open their 2018 season against local rivals Swinton Lions as an old rivalry is renewed in the Red Devils first warm-up game before another Betfred Super League Season.
Swinton will visit the The Salford Stadium (1pm kick-off) looking to cause an upset and there is a whole host of new faces on show for both sides.
Salford versus Swinton has long been a fierce rivalry and many in the local community are excited to see its return but there are a lot of stories around both clubs heading into Sunday’s game.
The Red Devils Head Coach Ian Watson was the man in charge at Swinton before making the move to the The Salford Stadium and spent time with both clubs throughout his playing career. On the other hand, Stuart Littler has also spent time with both teams as a player and he will lead the Lions into battle this weekend.
From the sidelines to the boardrooms and both clubs are entering new eras. Last week it was confirmed that ownership of Salford Red Devils had been transferred to a consortium of Salford supporters following Dr Marwan Koukash’s five-year tenure. Swinton have also had a change at the top as Andy Mazey has taken the reins as Chairman and will be looking to steer the Lions in a new direction.
Last Time Out
This weekend’s fixture will be the first runout before the 2018 season for both the Red Devils and Swinton Lions but both clubs have something to build on after 2017.
Salford experienced their most successful season in recent memory with a 4th place regular season finish in the Betfred Super League as well as making an appearance in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final for the first time in twenty years. Ian Watson’s side will be looking for another top eight finish and to build on last year’s single victory in the Super 8s.
As for the Lions, Swinton avoided relegation to League One with a memorable win over Lancashire rivals Oldham following a difficult season both on and off the field. Swinton have made wholesale changes both at the top and on the field and will be looking to consolidate themselves as a Championship side for the foreseeable future.
Salford and Swinton is a rivalry that stretches back to the beginning of the 20th century with the two local rivals meeting in the 1899-1900 Challenge Cup final in which Swinton came out victorious 16-8.
The last time the two sides met was in the 2015 pre-season, almost three years to the day, as the local community banded together to commemorate the life of aid worker Alan Henning. The Red Devils had a comfortable afternoon against the Lions 66-4 and for an in-depth look at the game click here.
While they’ll not be directly in competition in terms of position both Salford and Swinton have new additions set to start – Jack Littlejohn and Hayden Hansen.
Both men have come from Australia to further their careers and Littlejohn has big boots to fill taking the role of Salford cult hero Michael Dobson following his retirement. Littlejohn has gained NRL experience with the Wests Tigers and is a big, dynamic half-back who could hold the keys to unlocking the Lions defence.
As for Hansen, he has arrived from Queensland Intrust Super Cup team Redcliffe Dolphins for whom he was captain. Hansen can play at hooker or loose forward and is a powerful runner whose eye for a killer pass will make him a serious threat in the Championship next season.
Swinton have made 13 additions to the squad in the off-season, but Head Coach Stuart Littler has only been able to name a 18-man squad due to several minor injuries.
New signings George Tyson, Hayden Hansen, Aaron Hall, Elliot Caine, Marcus Webb, Danny Ansell, Connor Taylor and Chris Worrell could all pull on the Lions’ shirt for the first time. Meanwhile, Gabe Fell will be in line to make his second debut for the club upon his return to the Lions from Wigan. French trailist Omer Djalout is also involved in the Lions’ matchday squad.
Marquee player Matt Sarsfield, who rejoined the club in 2017, will be keen to make an impact having only featured for the Lions twice last season due to long-term injury.
New signing Littlejohn will start in the halves alongside Gareth O’Brien while 2017 top try-scorer Niall Evalds will begin the game at full-back. Youngsters Josh Wood and Jake Bibby will also both start the game.
Ben Nakubuwai, Levy Nzoungou, Derrell Olpherts and Gavin Bennion will all start bench for Salford Red Devils but Head Coach Ian Watson has said that everybody named in the matchday squad will feature at some stage.
Meanwhile, suspended Ryan Lannon and Luke Burgess who is recovering from a small knock are the only two Salford players who don’t make the matchday squad.
Salford: (Starting Line-Up): Evalds, Johnson, Welham, Sa’u, Bibby; O’Brien, Littlejohn; Tasi, Wood, Mossop, Jones, Hauraki, McCarthy. (Interchanges): Lui, Kopczak, Tomkins, Griffin, Flanagan, Nakubuwai, Brining, Vatuvei, Olpherts, Nzoungou, Murray, Bennion.
Swinton: Ansell, Austin, Bracek, Butt, Caine, Djalout, Fell, Hall, Hankinson, J. Hansen, H. Hansen, Lloyd, Sarsfield, Taylor, Tyson, Waterworth, Webb, Worrall.
Referee: M. Griffiths.
Touch Judges: S. Houghton & A. Smith.