RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG 14 – JOHN TAYLOR (PT3)

Part 3  He Remembers His Former Salford Teammates From Those Days

Limited as his opportunities in the first team might have been, John still had sufficiently frequent involvement with the players to get to know them all really well, and the very first name to his lips was that of the player who has so frequently been regarded as rugby league’s best ever fullback, Paul Charlton (RLQSG#9).

“Paul would come to training and without speaking to anyone would just start running, and it was only when we got to the moves we happened to be working on that session, that he would actually join in with what everyone else was doing.  Because of that though he became so fit that he must have been the fittest player in the team, by far.  He would try anything, fitness-wise, to get the best out of himself.

“On the field he was phenomenal.  He always had the happy knack of being in the right place at the right time, and he always seemed to be in control of everything, no matter what happened.  He never panicked at all.  His change of pace was exceptional and players who thought they were going to tackle him were just left totally in his wake.  I can’t, in the foreseeable future, see any player matching him in what he was able to do.

“I used to do quite a lot of training with Colin Dixon.  He was such a really nice person who never even thought about how good he was.  He just used to think of helping other players along, especially the younger ones.  No-one ever had a bad word to say about him.”

The two players, who, between them were responsible for John’s constant struggle to get that extended run in the first team were the two incumbent half backs, Peter Banner (RLQSG#4)and Kenny Gill (RLQSG#10).

“Peter was the quiet man of the team but on the field he was incredibly good.  His service from the scrum with his wide passing was a considerable asset to the team because it gave them extra time and space in which to work.  He was also a clever, tricky runner with a good turn of acceleration and pace to get him through the gaps.

“Kenny was an incredible passer of the ball, who was able to put players through gaps that no-one else even realised existed.  I had the pleasure of playing scrum half to him, on one occasion, and I remember him saying to me before the game to just get on with what we had to do, and not worry about anything else.  I found that most reassuring, just as we were leaving the dressing room.”

Another of the team’s stars also features very highly in John’s memory.

“Keith Fielding (RLQSG#6) was a fantastic person to know.  He and I used to train together, which he always took really seriously and worked himself extremely hard because he always wanted to be the fastest on the field.  I used to try to keep up with him and even overtake him.  The best I managed was finishing within a yard of him over the hundred metres.   I shall never forget him and, in fact, a few years ago, he invited me down to visit him at his home in Cornwall.”

When not commanding a place in the first team, John was still happy to be playing at ‘A’ team level, because the Salford ‘A’ team was as good as any first team, and, in their own way, equally as entertaining to watch as their senior counterparts.

“We had a lot of really good players in that team, and we really were something extra special at the time.  Jimmy Hardacre is the first of those who come to mind; he was an absolutely cracking bloke.  I remember him giving me a lift to an evening away match in Cumbria, and I’ve never been so frightened in all my life.  We flew there, despite the fact that the only stretch of motorway was around Preston.

“In fact, we were pulled up by the police, who, once they realised the reason behind our haste ended up giving us an escort to ensure that we got there in time.”

“Iain MacCorquodale was another player similar to myself in that he was often drafted into the first team, when required, usually on the wing.  His great asset was his goalkicking, which he showed to the full when he moved on to play for Workington.

“Sammy Turnbull started off in the ‘A’ team before cementing a place in the first team, at centre, later on, and he wasn’t the only one.  Alan Grice (RLQSG#11) started off there as did John Knighton, who had to use his time there to adapt from union to playing league, but then became a first choice second rower. 

“Ellis Devlin (RLQSG#12) was possibly the most under-rated player in the club, because he never got a really extended run in the first team, despite the number of other hookers who came and went during his time.  For some reason, the club never fully gained the benefit from having such really talented players in reserve, ready to step into the void, at virtually no cost, when first team players moved on or had lengthy injuries.  They always seemed to splash out a lot of money on star names, not all of whom fitted in that well.

“Like Alan Grice, Peter Frodsham was a prop forward who also had a spell in the first team, whilst fullback, Frank Stead, would have benefitted any first team, as previously had Kenny Gwilliam, who was our fullback in the Wembley Cup Final before transferring to St Helens.

“Paul Jackson had been our left winger at Wembley but had lost his place to Maurice Richards, when he came, but continued in the ‘A’ team for a while.

“With first David Watkins and Jack Brennan, and then Kenny Gill and Peter Banner, holding the half back slot, there was seldom the opportunity for David’s former rugby union stand-off half, Bob Prosser, and he, too, made most of his appearances in the ‘A’ team, in his later years with us.”

With such talented players on which to draw, it is therefore little wonder that Salford swept all before them, at ‘A’ team level, nor also that the entertainment value of that side was a widely recognised attraction to fans to come and watch them. 

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG 13 – TERRY OGDEN PT 5

Pt 1  His Early Rugby Career

Pt 2 He Recounts The Story Of Salford’s Rebirth

Pt 3 He Relates The History Surrounding The Willows Social Club

Pt 4 He Remembers Players From The ‘Team Of Stars


Part 5 His Post Rugby Life

The career of a professional rugby league player is, in itself, very short, but the tenure of any one of them, at any one club, is usually considerably shorter, so Terry’s seven seasons at The Willows was well above those of many, including his own spells at his previous clubs.  That it culminated with a Challenge Cup Final, at Wembley, was absolutely wonderful, as it would for any player, but that it came so close to his departure, was indeed a considerable surprise, even to him.

“I really had not expected anything like that to happen so soon after the big day, but sometimes events take over, and I was suddenly somewhat less in favour than previously, and now playing in the ‘A’ team.  I realised then that my chances of returning to the first team had become extremely slim.

“I did get the chance of going to Rochdale but decided against it; I’d had enough by this time.  In particular, I was finding myself missing the significant notoriety, and even the little adulation, which playing for Salford had brought.  It had gone out of my life and that made me want to try and replace it with something else.

“I did try my hand at coaching, very briefly from 1970 to 71, with Salford University team, but when that came to an end so too did my time in rugby league, and I moved my life on in a different direction.”

That turned out be with horse-riding in which he led cross-country team-chases and eventing.

“I was also getting involved in renovating properties, including what is now my own home, which we, for one spell, turned into an hotel, so it has been only in the last five years or so that I have regained an interest, once more, in the game.  I recently joined the Oldham Former Players’ Association and have now got involved with them a little bit, with their monthly meetings.

“Because the Salford team of my era consisted of players from all over the country, they have all gone their separate ways and we don’t have the basis on which to form one for us.”

It is probably a little surprising that someone, who had been away from the game for as long as Terry was, has rekindled any interest in it at all, but circumstances can often conspire to bring about the most surprising of outcomes.

“My grandson became interested in the game and joined Saddleworth Rangers before later joining the police force, so obviously I went along to watch him.  He now plays for the Great Britain Police side and had it not been for the pandemic scuppering the chance, he would have toured Australia back in 2020. Then recently, out of the blue, I got a phone call from Alan Grice informing me of the new Heritage system which had been recently established by Salford, and this inspired me to make a few return visits here.

“The happiest years of my life were when I was playing for Salford, which led to a very great fondness for the club.  The Snape brothers, Brian and Keith, were marvellous people to be involved with.  Keith was a lovely person, and Brian just had so much energy and enthusiasm for the club.  It was so wonderful to have been a part of it all.”

TRIBUTE TO MIKE COULMAN

Everyone at Salford Red Devils is most deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our magnificent, former second row forward, and British Lions Rugby Union forward, Mike Coulman. Back in September 2018, Mike became the first of thus far eleven players of the flamboyant late sixties late seventies Salford team to share their memories of playing for the club, at that time, In tribute to his outstanding contribution to Salford, in a number of capacities, we reproduce here an extract from the finished article, first published 28th October 2018.

Mike takes up the story a few months after his return from a highly successful international rugby union tour of South Africa, with the British Lions:

“I was at home, washing my car on a lovely sunny day, when a Jenson Interceptor Coupe, containing a person who turned out to be the Salford Chairman, drew up at my home,” he relates.   “He didn’t immediately mention signing for Salford, but instead invited me down to watch a couple of games.”

So, a few days later, Mike could have been found at The Willows, gaining his first experience of a rugby league match.  One extremely important catalyst in his willingness to agree to doing so, and then consequently proceeding to sign for the Red Devils, was that he knew that the club’s captain was none other than Welsh Rugby Union International half back, David Watkins, who, it turns out, had been instrumental in shaping Brian Snape’s initial overture.

On his very first visit, Mike found that, not only was the game quite different from union, but so, too, was the whole environment in which he found himself.

“Stafford is a very rural area,” he points out, “and the club ground consists of a couple of acres of land which had been donated to the club, but it had little in the way of facilities, other than a small clubhouse and bar.  In contrast, The Willows was in a residential, urban area, with The Willows Variety Centre at the hub of everything that was happening.  It was all highly professional and impressive, and I quickly became keen to become a part of it.”

The only drawback was that, as a policeman, he was not able to have another job alongside that, so, having made his decision to make the move, it was also going to involve not only the end to his rugby union career, but also a complete change of lifestyle involving a move up north to live in Marple, and taking up a new career working in The Variety Centre.

His first match came immediately after making the change of code, away at the old Athletic Stadium, former home of Rochdale Hornets, in a Division 1 league fixture.

“Nowadays, you would have been required to have put in at least a week’s worth of training,” he considers, “but for me, back then, I was put straight into the team.   Although we were professional to a degree, we were not as professional as things are now.”

It was in this game that he donned, for the first time, the number eleven jersey which was to become his own, until making the move up front to open-side prop, in the mid-seventies.

“I was always number eleven, because that was the second-row position on the blindside of the scrum,” he explains.  “Obviously, it was a very steep learning curve for me.  I just went through the game being told to stand here, and then there, and when the ball did eventually come to me, I just had to go forward and make as much progress as a I possibly could.

“It took around a quarter of the season for me to begin to feel settled into the game and begin holding my own in the team.”

His arrival at the club coincided with that of a player, who, not only was to become a very close personal friend, but who also, as his fellow second rower in those early days, was to become Mike’s mentor and guiding light, died-in-the-wool rugby league international, Colin Dixon.

“He was my best pal throughout my whole time with Salford,” Mike confides, and, pointing to a small tree in the middle of his lawn, continues, “I planted that in memory of him.  That is his.”

So close did the two become that Mike attributes much of his later success directly to Colin.

“He was such a great help, not so much for anything he said, but in his actions.  I always kept my eye on him and noted the things he did, and then tried them out myself.  I just owe so much to him.”

Part of the arrangements under which Mike came to Salford was that during the week he would work for Chairman, Brian Snape, in his Stanneylands restaurant in Manchester city centre, where he started to learn, in considerable detail, everything connected with the catering industry.  This was to stand him in good stead ahead of a flourishing career throughout his life, in this area.

“I went on to work for Whitbreads, for whom I managed twenty sites, some with hotels.  That carried great responsibility as there was well over a million pounds tied up in them all.  The move from union to league totally transformed my life.”

Not only that, he also found that once he had settled into the game, there were aspects of it which he much preferred to rugby union, particularly the high level of professionalism throughout the sport.

“I found rugby union far more sociable, but lacking professionalism in terms of the game, and, as a player, you want to be able to progress and develop to the best you can be.  I certainly have no regrets whatsoever about having made the move, although the three months British Lions Rugby Union tour still remains my lifetime’s highlight.”

Nevertheless, there were highlights still to be gained in his newly found affection for rugby league, starting in 1969 with what was destined to be Salford’s first post-war visit to Wembley, which remarkably he can remember in detail.

“The game went by in a flash but I didn’t play well at all.  Certainly not as well as I think I should have done.  I didn’t do enough tackling, probably because the big strength of my game was my physical prowess in carrying the ball, but even in this I felt I lacked aggression, on the day,” he ruefully reflects.  “I just would have liked to have played better than I did.”

Wembley is a hard place to go to and then to come away with nothing, as it is always going to be for fifty percent of the protagonists.

“I never liked losing any match, but you just have to be resilient, put it all in the past, and then turn your attention to the next season, which thankfully is what all the lads did,” he comments.

And indeed, with two First Division Championship successes in 1973/4 and again in 1975/6, to come, there were still successes, aplenty, awaiting him.

“The longevity of that Championship Trophy, coupled with the style with which we won it, on those two occasions, made it very special to us all.  To win it twice, and so close in time, was absolutely marvellous,” is his wholly justifiable assessment.

“We played with a great deal of skill and considerable guile in that period.  I scored a hundred and forty tries in my time with Salford, most of which came during that particular period of the early to mid-seventies, and which I consider was the peak of our time together as a team.”

In sharp contrast, he readily acknowledges that they failed to do themselves justice in the one-off rugby which is the Challenge Cup.  Every year, the atmosphere around The Willows was electric with the anticipation that, that year, they would be getting to Wembley, which was not only every player’s dream, but also every fan’s – only for these hopes to be dashed by ball number twenty-three, without any variation  from season to season, being drawn out for a second or third round journey to West Yorkshire, to face might of Leeds, at Headingly, or Castleford, at Wheldon Rd.

This, however, was the only blip in what was an exceptional period of the club’s history.  And so it should have been with the star studded side which they were able to raise, week in and week out, for, as so often happens with a team brimming with talent, injuries were few and far between.

Indeed, pace was the ingredient throughout the whole team, with Mike himself and Colin Dixon, in the second row possessing the pace of any back to score long distance tries during which they would draw further and further away from their chasing opponents before invariably grounding under the posts.

As the season’s passed, and the years started to catch up on them all, changes within the squad and around team selection understandably, took place.  For Mike, this led to a change of position, with his making the move up front to prop. In 1977.

“Throughout my rugby union career, I had always played at prop, and during my time in the second row, it had always been in the back of mind that I would one day return there, which I did for my final three seasons.”

Obviously, as certain players reached retirement age, and others moved on to join other clubs, a gradual dip in performance and results started to become apparent.  For Mike though, there were other problems with which to contend.

“It was about that time I started to develop injury problems with my knees.  I started to miss more and more games, and eventually had to undergo surgery.”

Nevertheless, what he achieved as a player was absolutely outstanding, with, most remarkably, his attaining an international cap, at every level from schoolboy, right through to full international level, in both codes.

He even attained a most unusual international experience, alongside the rest of the squad, playing in a friendly against the French, in a Salford jersey, down in the south of France.

“We travelled down by private jet, and the whole trip down there was a most enjoyable experience, even though we were on the receiving end of a hefty defeat.”

His proudest claim to fame of all, however, came in what was the third and deciding test match against the Australians, in The Sydney Cricket Ground, when he got the better with a perhaps questionable tackle on one of the opposing Australian forwards (thought to be the formidable Artie Beetson), who was left lying prostrate on the ground, for a number of minutes.

“The referee warned me that if he didn’t get up, I would be walking up the tunnel.”

Fortunately for Mike, the Australian medical staff were up to the challenge, and Mike duly remained on field to contribute further to the remainder of the game. IIt was, nevertheless, most out of character for the usually calm and compliant Coulman, who in this day and age, would have suffered a spell in the sinbin, at least, had things not been so different then.

“I was geed up purely by his stature.  Also, the fact that we were playing on an Australian cricket ground, which was rock hard, because unlike Headingley, where they are two separate pitches, this was all on the same area, and I was determined to make an impression.”

With so many of his Salford teammates in the Great Britain side – indeed the Red Devils commanded almost the whole of the backline, with Mike and Colin Dixon pairing up in the back row – playing for his country seemed little different than any away game for Salford, particularly when they found themselves staying in the same hotels used by the Red Devils.

After having played under various coaches, 1982 saw Mike, by then in his fourteenth year, appointed to the position of player-coach, before eventually hanging up his boots to concentrate on coaching. Not that he looks back on his coaching career with any great satisfaction, as he did not really find himself best cut out for the position.

“I simply am not an aggressive person, and I do feel that that was the problem throughout my whole rugby career. I always felt that it was best just to play each other without ever having the desire to inflict physical harm on anyone. Consequently, in the role of coaching, that required degree os aggression was lacking.

The playing career of a professional sportsman is exceptionally short, with most rugby league players managing a maximum of ten years at the top, but Mike found that the reputation and aura he had built up in the local area, during his days in the red, number eleven, jersey have followed and stayed with him throughout his life, and, that he then has had more time to return to  the club for occasional games, where he has been overwhelmed by the respect and bonhomie he has received.

“The number of people who come up to me wanting to speak and shake hands is unbelievable, and it makes me feel so proud that I could almost cry.”

Those of us who know him, or have had the pleasure and privilege of seeing him play for the team, would undoubtedly respond by saying that this is merely fitting respect for a truly great man who throughout his playing days, and beyond, has been an absolute credit to rugby league, rugby union, Salford, and himself.

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (9) – ERIC PRESCOTT PT 2

Part 2 – MEMORIES OF HIS TIME WITH SALFORD

The abundance of talent within the St Helens team, during the first couple of years of the 1970s had reached levels that were almost an embarrassment with highly ambitious players vying with one another for places within the team, the back couple of rows in the scrum being of particular concern, as Eric discovered.

“We had players like Eric Chisnall, John Mantle, and Kel Coslett, all of whom would have commanded places within any team, so I was finding myself confined to the bench, where a position in those days would not necessarily mean you would get a game.

“Substitutes back then were there solely to cover for injuries, and if no-one actually got injured, the two bench players might go for weeks without getting onto the field.  I began to become frustrated at not getting much game time, so went to the St Helens Chairman to request a transfer.

“He didn’t want me to leave at all, and to this end he put me on the list but at the price of £15,000.  That didn’t deter Salford, though, and chief scout, Albert White, came and asked whether I would join Salford to which I readily agreed knowing the quality that was present in the rest of the team.  The whole backline, from one to seven, were internationals, and with the likes of Mike Coulman and Colin Dixon in the forwards I knew I was joining a great team.

“I already knew one or two of the players, but turning up for my first training session, I was made really welcome.  The whole group of players was more like a family than a sports team.

“I already knew coach, Cliff Evans, from his days at St Helens, and I knew the way he wanted his teams to play, which was particularly helpful, because there was certainly a similarity in what he was advocating at Salford.”

Salford had brought Eric to the club with the firm intention of playing him at loose forward.  There was, however, already a regular incumbent of that position.

“Colin Dixon had been playing there for quite a while, and I really felt sorry at moving him from his position, but he was a real gentleman – you couldn’t wish to meet anyone better – and he just accepted the situation with the utmost grace.  For me, having players like him alongside me was just absolutely marvellous.

“My first game with them all was against Rochdale, which we won, 46-18, at The Willows, all within the same week as my signing for them.  When you sign for a new team, there is always a settling-in period as you get to know everything, and there is no way that you can possibly acquire all that in only two training sessions.

“Salford had a lot of moves which they would deploy at various times in the game, which made for a really good setup.  They would call these moves out and everyone really needed to know their part in them.

“Defending teams, at that time, were kept only three yards back, which meant that they were able to get up onto the attacking team very quickly, and so having their practised moves enabled them to fox the defence in some way.  Nowadays, being up to ten metres apart moves are rather less effective as there is so much time for defences to read what is happening.

“Salford played really good football and the ball always went through a lot of hands in every match.  We were always at our most dangerous in our own half of the field because when the other team were lying up on us, Kenny Gill or John Butler would put a kick through for Keith Fielding, and there was no-one going to catch him.

“Everyone had their own job within the team.  I liked tackling.  I liked the physicality involved, and also in aiming to get my technique just right on each occasion.  There was also the benefit of limiting the effectiveness of the opposition’s attack.

“Tackling round the legs was probably the best way of tackling in those days, because you can’t go without your legs.  Nowadays, it is regarded as more important to stop an offload, so tackling has drifted to the upper body.  Elbows, back then, were far too discouraging to make that type of tackle worthwhile.

“I got my nose broken in my early days, in a match against Warrington.  I was just getting up from a tackle to play the ball, when someone came in and smashed me across the face breaking my nose.  You have to learn from those incidents.”

As with many of his teammates, Eric still regrets the fact that the team never managed to fulfil its promise of winning trophies, and having come from a club like St Helens, this sat a little more uneasily on his shoulders.

“We should have won a whole lot more than we did, considering the talent that we had in the team, and having left St Helens to come to Salford, I had to sit and watch their success from afar.  They went to Wembley in 1976, and against all the odds won the Challenge Cup, and I remember thinking to myself that I’d missed out on that one.

“One of the reasons for my coming here was that, with the team packed with all those internationals, I was expecting much the same from us, but we just couldn’t get through those early rounds of the Challenge Cup to get to the final.  One season we were knocked out by St Helens themselves in what was, for us, a home match.  That really hurt.”

Invariably, though, it was a trip into Yorkshire, to face Leeds or Castleford, around Rounds two or three, which put Salford out of the competition.

“Another problem was that, then, virtually all the teams were of a similar playing standard, so whilst we were one of the top sides, and, on our day, probably the most entertaining of them all, the remaining fifteen teams in the first division were not far behind.  If we had an ‘off’ day, any one of them could have won.  I remember Rochdale coming to the Willows and beating us, on one occasion.  That sort of thing hardly ever happens nowadays.

Wembley may have had a hoodoo cast over it as far as the Salford team was concerned, but the calibre of the side was twice reflected in their winning the First Division Championship, in 1973/4 and 1975/6.

“That was certainly handsome compensation and probably worthy of greater notoriety than it received at the time because the equality in standards throughout the league made it all the more challenging and difficult to achieve.  Doing it twice, and so quickly after each other was a tremendous achievement.

“The first time was at the expense of St Helens, for once.  It was a late Easter Weekend at the end of the season, and we needed to win at Wigan, on the Easter Monday, and then for Widnes to beat St Helens, later that evening, in order for us to lift the Trophy.  We did all we could for ourselves in defeating Wigan, and then we all went over to Naughton Park, Widnes, which was so packed that we had to stand behind the posts to watch.

“It was quite absorbing because the game was so tight, with Saints in front at half time, but Widnes, with nothing but pride to play for, came back in the second half to win.  Saints were such a good team at that time we couldn’t really have expected anything other than for them to win, but they came unstuck and we became Champions.

“We also won other trophies.  We lifted the BBC2 Floodlit Cup, in 1972, with a win over Warrington, at Wilderspool, after drawing with them the week earlier at the Willows.  That came very shortly after I had moved to Salford and was a real reward for my having done so.

“The Lancashire Cup and the John Player Trophy were other competitions in which we also had successes, at least in reaching the final and semi-final.  I think it is a loss to the game that these competitions have gone by the board, because they brought a bit of variety to the season, whilst as a player you always wanted to win something, and there was something there to be won.

“The Lancashire Cup win was one of my best memories.  I had been injured just before, and came back to play in the final, against Swinton, at Warrington.  We controlled the game well, and apart from the first twenty minutes of the second half, when they really came at us, we were on top throughout, and fully deserved the win.”

By the later years of the seventies, there was a fairly noticeable deterioration in the team, as players got older, some retired, and others moved elsewhere.

“The mid-seventies were extremely good, but standards did start to decline over the coming seasons.  I still had the hankering to play at Wembley and still felt we had a good team then, but we just couldn’t get past those three or four clubs which had always been our downfall.  As time moved on, I began to realise this was not going to happen at Salford, so I started to look round for another club.

“Working, as I did, for Widnes Council, I sounded out the possibility of my moving there, because it was a club which was making significant progress, by then.  The response from them was that they were quite willing to take me on board, if I were willing to play in the second row, which I was, and so I made the move to join them.”

Nothing is for ever, though, and a couple of seasons later he returned for one more spell, with prop, John Wood, transferring over to Widnes, in exchange.

“Salford approached me with a view to returning, and because I had been so very happy there, for so long, I agreed.  Coming back again rekindled the memories of all those good times, and even though it was different this time around, I had absolutely no regrets in having done so.

“I liked the type of rugby Salford have always played, and alongside that, the people who were there were all so very friendly and approachable.  I also still believed that we could have made up for the lack of trophies previously, by winning something this time around, but sadly this was not to be.”

“I’m enjoying my rugby” – Rhys Williams extends contract

Salford Red Devils are pleased to announce that winger Rhys Williams has extended his contract until at least the end of the 2023 season. 

The Welshman joined the club from London Broncos ahead of the 2020 season and helped Salford reach their first Betfred Challenge Cup Final in 51 years, scoring one of the most standout Wembley tries in the history of the competition.

https://twitter.com/SalfordDevils/status/1408494453057155072

In 38 appearances, Williams has scored 11 tries for Salford and has been one of the most consistent players in the squad since his arrival last year.

Speaking on why he decided to extend his stay, Williams said: “I’m enjoying my rugby. As long as I’m happy and I’m enjoying being around the team and working hard for them, then that’s good enough for me.

“I pride myself on my consistency and professionalism, and I aim to continue bringing that every week to put in a good performance come game day.”

The 31-year-old has had little experience of the Salford faithful before COVID-19 hit, so Williams is looking forward to playing in front of unrestricted crowds again.

I’m very excited. It was hard times with no crowds, especially at Wembley, so to get out on front of the fans is such a buzz and another reason why I wanted to commit to another 2 years.”

Speaking on Rhys’  contract extension, head coach Richard Marshall said: “I’m delighted to have Rhys extend his stay here at Salford, as one of my main goals for 2022 and onwards is to keep the core of our squad together.

“Rhys is an established international player and is consistently good on the wing each week. I’m looking forward to building on the great relationship I already have with him.”

Director of rugby and operations Ian Blease added: “I am delighted in getting Rhys to agree a new deal with the Salford Red Devils. Rhys has been up there as one of our best players for the last few years and has been a tremendous acquisition for the club since we signed him.

“An ultimate professional with ambition to win every game, he is a player with an exemplary attitude, with total and absolute commitment for our club.  I am so pleased that I’ve been able to agree the deal that will keep Rhys at the club for the next two years.”

Join Rhys at the The Salford Stadium on Friday 13th August when we host Huddersfield Giants for Round 19 of the Betfred Super League. Buy your tickets HERE.

Rugby league fans urged to follow the Wembley template

Today’s fourth step in the UK Government’s Covid roadmap allows for venues returning to full capacity, with no social distancing. 

That means another significant step back to normality for rugby league clubs and fans in this week’s fixtures, starting with the Betfred Women’s Super League match between York City Knights and Wigan Warriors at Odsal tonight – and continuing through the Betfred Super League, Championship, League 1 and the Community Game. 

Throughout the pandemic, the RFL has been working closely with Government and with clubs and other stakeholders – and that has continued in the preparations for Stage 4. 

Karen Moorhouse, the RFL’s Chief Regulatory Officer, said: This week is another big step back to normality for our clubs and fans, and it comes at a positive time for the sport as we reflect on the success of the weekend at Wembley. 

“We have been grateful since the limited return of fans to grounds in recent weeks for the way our clubs and fans have worked together in a responsible manner, and the weekend was a great example of that. 

“To be included in the Government’s Events Research Programme allowed us to welcome a much higher crowd to Wembley than would otherwise have been the case, and the supporters of the four clubs involved – Castleford Tigers, Featherstone Rovers, St Helens and York City Knights – as well as the thousands of neutrals who attend our Challenge Cup Final weekend were a credit to the game. 

“This year that involved providing evidence of either a negative Covid-19 test or of having had a double vaccination to gain entry to the stadium – and while that won’t be required to attend regular league matches this week now we have reached Stage 4, we would still encourage supporters to bear in mind Government guidance where possible. 

“The Government refers to Stage 4 as ‘a new phase of continued caution whilst managing the risks of COVID-19’. We all owe it to each other to be as safe and responsible as possible to restrict the spread of the virus. 

“The same applies to all involved in the Community Game, whether as players or spectators. Again, Stage 4 of the Roadmap involves the removal of a number of restrictions – and again, we are urging clubs and players to implement these changes cautiously and responsibly.” 

Rugby League is joining other sports in requesting supporters to bear the following in mind before attending games: 

·       Do not attend if you have symptoms or are in any doubt about your health. 

·       Please vaccinate where possible to maximise protection to fellow supporters and members of staff.  Vaccination remains a key priority in the response to the pandemic. 

·       Use the Government’s offer of free lateral flow tests; consider taking one before you travel. 

·       If travelling via public transport, please adhere to the relevant guidance. 

·       Respect the rules of the venue you are attending and check in advance to see what is required. 

·       Wear face coverings in busy indoor areas  

·       Ensure you are familiar with social distancing restrictions where these apply  

·       Treat stewards with respect and respond to their requests. 

The RFL is continuing to work with clubs to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for all. 

Salford Red Devils’ next home game comes on Thursday 29 July, when we welcome Hull Kingston Rovers to the The Salford Stadium.

Community | Paul Highton on the UK Red Ride to Wembley

He’s grown accustomed to going the extra mile for Rugby League Cares and in August Paul Highton will once again attempt to go the distance for the charity on the UK Red Ride to Wembley.
The former Salford, Halifax, Oldham and Wales back row is the seventh Rugby League international to sign up for our epic fundraiser, which sees 26 riders cycling over 300 off-road miles from Old Trafford to the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final.
Paul was a one of 12 riders who completed the inaugural Ride to Wembley from Headingley to the national stadium last year, just 12 months after he cycled 3,000 miles from London’s Olympic Stadium to Rio de Janeiro on behalf of RL Cares.
This year he will join Gareth Ellis, Andy Lynch, Robbie Hunter-Paul, Chev Walker, Mick Cassidy and Nathan McAvoy for a challenge which involves avoiding roads wherever possible and cycling along forest trails, canal towpaths, bridleways and the occasional ploughed field.
An eighth former Rugby League international, Keith Senior, will also be involved in the ride driving one of the support vehicles.
“I had a bit of a Steve Redgrave moment last year when we reached the Wembley Legends statue after five gruelling days because I would have given permission for someone to shoot me if they saw me get back on a bike again! However, I’m really looking forward to doing it all again,” said Paul, who is currently the Football and Player Welfare Manager at Salford Red Devils.
“We raised over £20,000 for Rugby League Cares last year and I’m sure we’re going to smash that total this year, which will be brilliant.
“As well as my role with Salford, I help deliver fixtures for RL Cares on their hugely successful Offload men’s wellbeing project and I see at first hand the amazing difference the charity is making.
“Rugby League Cares is not just changing men’s lives, it’s saving lives as well, and to keep doing what it does it needs as many people as possible to get behind the Ride to Wembley.
“If I’m honest, there’s also a purely selfish motive for taking part again: as tough as it was last year, the banter was bang on and I can’t wait for another week of non-stop laughter, despite the saddle soreness and all the nettle stings!”
The 2018 UK Red Ride to Wembley leaves MediaCityUK in Salford at 8am on Monday August 20 and after riding around Old Trafford heads out across the Peak District bound for Wembley. The riders are scheduled to arrive at the Wembley Legends status on the stadium concourse around 2.00pm on Friday August 24, the eve of the 2018 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final.
If you would like to support the work Rugby League Cares does across the whole sport please sponsor the riders on the 2018 UK Red Ride to Wembley by visiting www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ride2wembley2018.
Save 10 per cent on tickets for the 2018 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, August 25 by purchasing before June 19. Tickets start from £20 for adults and can be purchased by calling the Rugby League Ticket Office on 0844 856 1113 or by visiting www.rugby-league.com/tickets .

David Watkins MBE wins special award at Wales Sports Awards

Last night Salford Red Devils legend and all-time top points scorer David Watkins MBE received the Special Recognition Award at the Wales Sports Awards 2017.
Phil Bennett, when presenting the award, said: “This gentleman is up there at the very top.” 
Watkins featured for the Red Devils between 1967 and 1979 making over 400 appearances for the Club and racking up a staggering 2907 points while at The Willows.
The Welshman captained Salford in their last Challenge Cup final appearance against Castleford at Wembley in 1969 and also earned caps for both Wales and Great Britain. Watkins went on to finish his career with Swinton.
The Club legend was a star in both codes playing for Wales and the British and Irish Lions in Rugby Union after spells with several Welsh Rugby Union sides.
In the 1986 New Year Honours, Watkins was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to Rugby League.
Everyone at the Salford Red Devils would like to congratulate David Watkins on a most deserved award.

Salford legend Jackie Brennan to present the ball on Thursday

Salford Red Devils legend Jackie Brennan is set to present the ball tomorrow night before our final game of the 2017 season.
Brennan captained the side during Salford’s last visit to Wembley in 1969 as the Red Devils fell to a 11-6 defeat to Castleford Tigers in the Challenge Cup final. Brennan made 317 appearances for the Salford between 1959 and 1970 scoring 70 tries from half-back. The half-back also features in the Salford’s Team of the Century.
CEO Ian Blease and Head Coach Ian Watson went for a meal with Salford legends Brennan, Graham Jones, Hugh Duffy and John Cheshire last week at Alberts in Worsley which has led to Brennan presenting the match ball before tomorrow’s game against St Helens.
Make sure you give this Salford legend a warm reception on Thursday evening as he brings out the match ball.
The match ball for our game against St Helens will be sponsored by Advanced Steel.
 
Tickets are on sale for our final home game of the season against St Helens and can be purchased over the phone, at the Club Ticket Office or online here. Fans can also watch our end of season awards for an extra £5 in the 1873 suite post-game. Season Tickets are valid for all Super 8s home games.

Support Paul Highton on his ride to Wembley

Former Red Devil Paul Highton is cycling from Leeds to Wembley Stadium for Rugby League Cares. The cycle started at Headingley Stadium, 8am on Monday 21st, and the team of 15 riders are set to arrive at the Wembley Legends statue on the eve of the 2017 Challenge Cup final – Friday 25th August.
Highton, speaking to Rugby League cares, said: “Cycling to Rio was one of the best experiences of my life and though the ride to Wembley is shorter, it’s going to be a fantastic five days.
“We may not have to cross the Pyrenees to reach our destination but this ride isn’t about mountain ranges or distance, it’s about overcoming the challenge of negotiating a testing off-road route.
“I’m expecting it to be tough: the bike is heavier for a start; I’m a year older and the nettles and brambles along the way are really going to hurt!
“Firstly, I’d say that nothing is going to be as tough as that first day when you don’t know what to expect your body is going to react to spending eight hours and more in the saddle.
“That feeling is like nothing else,” he added.
“Secondly, it’s important to keep your head up and take in what’s around you: how many people get to experience the beautiful countryside we have in the UK at such close quarters for five days? Soak it up!
“Finally, make sure you have a laugh: yes, there will be dark moments, and days when it feels tough, but the sun always comes out again and riding as a team is a real breeze, especially when you know you’re doing it for such a worthy cause.”
‘Highto’ has made big contributions to the men’s health and wellbeing project ‘Offload’ and has worked in conjunction with club foundations at Salford Red Devils, Widnes Vikings and Warrington Wolves.
Highton said: “Some of the impact Offload has made to the people involved has been nothing short of amazing.
“No-one was quite sure at the start whether men would buy into it but it’s been a transformational experience for a lot of people.
“The bonds that have been forged between the participants are really uplifting to witness. At Warrington, one member of the team said he was worried how he’d fill the void in his life after his 12 fixtures were up and they’ve all agreed to carry on meeting to support each other.
“It’s made a profound difference to the lives of a lot of men who previously felt they had no-where else to turn.”
To sponsor Paul, please visit his Just Giving page –  www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Paul-Highton.
 

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