RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG 11 – ALAN GRICE (PT 2)

Part 2 – HIS PLAYING CAREER WITH SALFORD

As with all up and coming players, there were a number of hurdles which Alan Grice had to overcome, in his endeavours to become a professional player, before a contract of any kind was forthcoming.  These included playing a set number of trial games, and, in the run up to that, undertaking a series of training sessions, in preparation.   Alan’s induction into the team at his first training session involved a meeting with the renowned former Wigan, Widnes, and Great Britain prop, Frank Collier.

“He was a massive fellow, and he had an equally big reputation.  We were all sent off to start with a couple of laps round the pitch, but as we were about to start, he came up to me to inform me that it would be in my best interest to finish after he had done, as he didn’t want to be last.  Comparing the difference in our sizes, I was only too happy to oblige, and so contentedly jogged round behind him.

“He was a formidable player and had brought to the Salford team a presence on the field which ensured respect from every opponent, at that time.”

Alan’s last trial game was in the Final of the Lancashire Shield, against Swinton, at Swinton, which Salford unfortunately lost.

“Swinton were a good side in those days, but so too were Salford, which made it a really closely fought game.  Neutral venues were not used for ‘A’ team finals and so the home advantage Swinton had, helped them to their win.”

Playing in the Salford ‘A’ team in the late sixties and early seventies brought with it a status quite of its own, with Friday evening crowds often in excess of a thousand, because word soon got round that the rugby this side played was also of an extraordinarily high quality.  Indeed, the players were well incentivised to do so with a number of bonuses on offer, as encouragement.

Promotion to the first team came in his winning debut against Featherstone Rovers, at The Willows, in October 1970.

“It came earlier than I expected, but the  coach, Cliff Evans, spent a lot of time coaching individuals, and I had benefitted from that.  When we played our pre-season friendly, he had included a number of the newcomers, including me, in the squad.  He clearly had everything under control in everything he did.

“He was the thinking man’s coach because he knew exactly what he wanted.  He was a schoolteacher, by profession, and this showed through in the way he spoke to, and handled, his players.  He had been at Swinton, before coming to Salford, so he already had a good deal of coaching experience behind him, and that helped too.

“All the moves he taught us were ones he had worked at Swinton, but as other teams came to recognise them, they started to produce these themselves, only with different names by which to identify them.”

It was Cliff, in fact, who recognised Alan’s potential as a front rower.

“He was a little unsure, at the outset, as to which position best suited me, but after a short while decided that I would make a prop, and he selected me on the bench a few times, to gain experience, alongside Charlie Bott and, occasionally, Colin Dixon.

“Scrummaging was a great factor in the game, because back then scrums were keenly contested, and getting possession for you team at each one was absolutely vital.  Just how you stand and how you distribute your weight when packing could help your hooker get an earlier strike at the ball.  Similarly, the angle at which you packed down by turning slightly was another way of gaining him an advantage.”

“The really special thing about the Salford club was the friendliness of the whole place, and the good spirit among all the players, which always helped us in our games, and which also contributed to the longevity of our careers, either here, at Salford, or elsewhere.”

The role Alan undertook within the team was to be that of first receiver from dummy-half, at each play-the-ball.

“They had me as the link between the two half-backs.  Peter Banner (Rugby League’s Quality Street Gang #4) had an exceptionally long and accurate pass, and I then had the role of sending the ball on to Kenny Gill (RLQSG#10), which gave him a bit of extra space he found of benefit in organising an attack.  David Watkins and Chris Hesketh, outside him, then, had even more space in which to operate, so that our backline became absolutely phenomenal.

”They had one particular move, known as ‘Torquay’, from which they scored every time.  It involved Charlton coming on a dummy run with the ball actually going out to either Watkins or Hesketh, via Gill, and ending up with the centre concerned going in, under the posts.”

Not that the forwards were totally excluded from the attacking moves, and Alan, himself, was involved in some of these.

“One was based on the back row pair of Mike Coulman (RLQSG#1) and Colin Dixon, who were used as foils in order to prise an opening for one of us props to go through.  Although everyone would have the right to call a move, it was always Gill who would have the final say in this.

It was however the bonhomie within the side which Alan feels was the most significant factor which cemented them together, as a group.

“We all did quite a lot of socialising together and enjoyed one another’s company, which was so beneficial to our success as a team.  Much of that was down to our Chairman, Brian Snape.  He was such a decent person, and whenever it turned out that we didn’t have a game, we would have a weekend’s training away at an hotel in Cheshire, Mottram Hall, which he owned.  I would room up with Mike Coulman, who worked for the Chairman.”

During his total of ten years at the club, Alan was involved in many of the successes of that period, not least winning of the Lancashire Cup, in 1972, the BBC2 Floodlit Trophy in ’73, and the First Division Championship in both 1973/4 and ‘75/6.

“I still have all the medals from those occasions.  We were unlucky not to have won more, because we played in four Lancashire Cup Finals, but won only the one.  We were really close in all the others, with us ending up only a couple of points behind the opposition.

“One of them was against Widnes which they won 6-4, at Wigan, and even though they beat us, we played really well that day.  Some days you just don’t get the luck you need to win through.

“The games which stood out most to me were the two Floodlit Cup Finals, with a replay away at Warrington on an absolutely dreadful night, after we had fought out a nil-nil draw at The Willows the week before.   Even though no-one scored in that first match, it was a great game, with the tackling of both teams being extremely high in calibre.

“Warrington were certainly favourites for the replay, because they had a really good pack with the likes of Kevin Ashcroft hooking for them, which was always going to ensure them a good supply of possession.

“I remember standing outside the ground with the water level rising and rising, quite convinced it would be called off, but then Eddie Waring walked in and told us we needed to get changed because the game was going to be on.  It was only played because it was on TV.

“It was alright for the first half hour, but after that it was just a quagmire.  It was very much a forwards game in those conditions and the forwards tackled every bit as well as they had done the week before.  We were fortunate that we scored fairly early in the game, after Watkins had made a good break, because after that you just couldn’t run on it.”

As something of a break from normal league and cup fixtures the Reds were often chosen to play warm up games against touring sides.

“I really enjoyed playing against the tourists, and we had some really good matches against them.  In one of them New Zealand were ahead 28-0 at half time but we ended up winning 30-28.   Then on another occasion, we played against the Ausie touring team, and they won it with a try in the last couple of minutes.

“Those games were at a different level from the norm, being so much faster and much more intense, not to mention our coming up against the strength of the individuals involved.

“For the whole of the time I was at the club I thoroughly enjoyed playing for Salford.  It was such a nice environment with really great guys who were fabulous players, and because of that we were able to win so many matches.  We would no sooner come to an end of one winning run having unexpectedly lost to somebody, than we would start yet another possibly even longer run still.”

Dual Reg/Loan Watch | Bennion in action for Rochdale Hornets

Salford Red Devils forward Gavin Bennion made his first appearance for Rochdale Hornets since joining on a one-month loan deal this past weekend.
Unfortunately, it was an afternoon to forget for the Hornets as they fell to an 80-4 defeat against Featherstone Rovers at the LD Nutrition Stadium.
Bennion – who joined the Red Devils from Rochdale at the start of the season – began the game at prop-forward.
Brad Dwyer – on dual-registration from Leeds Rhinos – crossed for six tries while James Lockwood notched a hat-trick. Jason Walton, Brad Knowles, Anthony Thackeray and John Davies also scored while Rob Massam went over for Rochdale’s solitary score.
Bennion could feature next weekend against Swinton Lions before also being available for fixtures against Leigh Centurions and Toronto Wolfpack.

The Tigers are in Town, but we’ll roar louder! 
Tickets for our next home game against Castleford Tigers on Friday 13th July are available to purchase at the Club Ticket Office, over the phone or online here.

 

Ladbrokes Challenge Cup | Salford to face Leigh on Friday 11th May

Salford Red Devils can confirm that our Sixth Round Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie against Leigh Centurions at the Leigh Sports Village will be played on Friday 11th May, 7:35pm kick-off.
The game has been selected as a television game by Sky Sports. The full list of television games is as follows:
Thursday, May 10 – Featherstone Rovers vs Hull FC  (7:35, Sky Sports)
Friday, May 11 – Leigh Centurions vs Salford Red Devils (7:35, Sky Sports)
Saturday, May 12 – Castleford Tigers v St Helens (2.30, BBC One)
Sunday, May 13 – Toronto Wolfpack v Warrington Wolves (3.30pm, BBC Two)
Last season the Red Devils reached the semi-finals of the competition with victories over Toronto Wolfpack, Hull Kingston Rovers, Wakefield Trinity before falling to Wigan Warriors at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Ticket and coach details will be confirmed in due course.
The full Sixth Round draw is as follows:

Salford Red Devils U16’s 36-16 Featherstone Rovers

After watching their counterparts in the Red portion of the U16s’ extremely large squad overcome Barrow, a week earlier, it was the turn of the Black group to take to the field last Sunday.
In what was their first outing of the season, they entertained Featherstone Rovers.  With both sides choosing to have numbers to spare, Salford decided on a bench of seven players, two  less than the Rovers, all of whom were utilised at some point during the game.
It was the visitors, however, who settled the more quickly,, taking advantage of a Salford error from the kick-off to gain possession and within moments, being rewarded with the opening try of the game.
Far from dispiriting the young Red Devils, this only served to galvanise them, and within minutes they had taken a two point lead, courtesy fullback, Josh Hayes who followed up a kick into the in-goal area, but which ricocheted nicely for him to touch down, and then convert his own try, much to the delight of Player Development Manager, Danny Barton,
Barton said: “That early error really changed their mind-set and they showed their determination not to let their heads drop.”
“From that point on they were making seventy metres at a time for each set, and were equally great when clearing the line.  There were a few handling errors, though, and these did lead to them putting themselves under pressure from the Rovers, but then we just rebuffed them with our good goal-line defence, on at least five occasions.”
Having benefitted from some good fortune, the Red Devils confidence flooded back, and they followed this up with two well-worked tries, both converted by Josh Hayes.  The first came from a handling move to the left hand edge where loose forward Deryn Harrison grounded
Substitute Peter Adinie was next on the score-sheet to finish off a long range attacking move which started at a scrum, and which, with the conversion,  brought the score to 18-4, before centre, Jack Fairbrother completed the scoring for the first half, by following up a kick to bring  a 22-4 halftime score.
Barton said: “There was a lot to be pleased about, because some of the lads had previously only played school rugby, so for them to have stood up and done so well, just shows the real depth of talent we have in this area.”
“On this occasion I left the halftime talking to my coaching staff comprising Stuart Wilkinson, Jay Boyden, Andy Knight, and Gerry Armstrong.”
With a comfortable lead to provide them with cushioning, the Red Devils exploited their position even further with Jack Fairbrother going on to complete his hat-trick, to earn the Man of the Match award.  Gabriel Moura completed the scoring for the Red Devils, though the visitors recovered somewhat to notch a couple of well-deserved  tries of their own, while Josh Hayes brought his goal kicking tally to five succeses from seven attempts.
Salford: Josh Hayes, Luke Watson, Cian Rhys, Jack Fairbrother, Ben Wharton, Dan Delaney, Shane Knight, Josh Grady, Sam Nichol, Josh Bentley, George Glover, Tom Guy, Deryn Harrison, Chad Wrigley, Michael Sackfield, Ben Strickland, Will Pettigrew, Josh Connolly, Peter Adinie, Callum Watts, Gabriel Moura, Cameron Smollett.

Two Grand Finals on Salford’s doorstep this weekend

This weekend Salford will have not one but two Super League Grand Finals on its doorstep.
As always, the Super League Grand Final will take place at Old Trafford on Saturday, 6pm kick-off, between seven-time Grand Final winners Leeds Rhinos and Old Trafford debutants Castleford Tigers.
However, the inaugural Women’s Super League Grand Final will also take place in Manchester on Saturday. Featherstone Rovers and Bradford Bulls Ladies will fight it out to be named the first-ever Women’s Super League winners.
The game will take place at Manchester Regional Arena and will kick-off at 12pm. Entry to the first-ever Women’s Super League Grand Final is just £5 for Adults, £3 for concessions and any under 16s female players wearing their community club’s shirt will gain FREE entry.
You can make it a double-header of Grand Finals on the day – just a five mile or a 25-minute tram ride separate the Manchester Regional Arena and Old Trafford.
 
Remember Salford Red Devils 2018 Season Tickets are currently on sale with all the details here. We have also provided a Direct Debit breakdown for each Season Ticket here. You can purchase your Season Ticket over the phone, at the Club Ticket Office or online here.

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