Head Coach, Ian Watson, Discusses, With David Clegg, Friday’s Home Super 8s Encounter With Wakefield Trinity
The mathematics of the situation are quite simple. Four victories will put Salford into the semi-finals of the Super 8s, and there are four matches left in which to get them. With three of those four here at the A J Bell, this certainly is not beyond the capabilities of the team, which, in the early part of the season, was carrying all before it.
Times have changed since then, however, with injuries taking their toll and precipitating a decline in fortunes, of which Head coach, Ian Watson, is all too aware.
“We had had a really good season up to the start of the Super 8s, but since then we have dropped off a bit,” is his assessment. “The last few weeks we have not been good enough, and we need to set about rectifying that.
“Friday’s match is a great challenge for us, and it is a challenge we are excited to face, so it is time for us to show again just what we are as a team, and work hard for one another.”
It Is frequently said that getting to the Grand Final is like taking part in a marathon rather than a sprint, but circumstances within the club were such that the team had to get off to a really good start at the beginning of the season, and, possibly, the recent lapse has been a sign of their having put too much into this early part.
“We trained them very hard during the pre-season to ensure that we were nowhere near the Million Pound Game, “he explains. “Avoiding that was our main objective, which we achieved well, but then there were issues which arose on our way to doing so.
“Because we have only a small squad we had to run with more or less the same individuals. Then, because of the good cup run we had, we got none of the weekends off that other teams benefitted from, whilst, as happens with every team, injuries started to play their part.”
Thrilling as it is to be involved in a substantial cup run, once it comes to an end it can be found to have diverted every one’s attention away from the league and it becomes difficult to refocus on that.
“We would rather have that problem than not though, just as we would rather be in a cup final, whatever the circumstances, than not, and we would rather be playing cup ties than having weeks off,” Ian maintains. “It has left us in a position where we are short on bodies, and improving the depth of the squad is something we shall have to address for the future.
“Not only would that then cover eventualities like this one, it also brings about genuine competition for places.”
The problem with that comes, of course, in the form of the salary cap, which requires teams to make decisions as to the make-up of the squad, pitting increasing numbers against the quality of more expensive players, a headache which Ian has had to wrestle with ahead of each season.
He agrees, saying, “We brought in a few high quality players for the start of this season, which improved the side, and we need to recruit just as smartly this time. It’s all part of the building process.”
Friday’s visit of Wakefield sees an encounter with a side which has proved to be something of a bogey side for us, over the Super League period. Many have been the times we have travelled across the Pennines full of confidence, only to have this overturned once the game had kicked off. This year, Wakefield went one better by completing the league-double over us with a win here at the A J Bell. True, the Red Devils came out on top in the Challenge Cup Quarter Final, but need the victory on Friday for a whole host of reasons, one of which would be to square up the honours for this season.
“Wakefield have gone through a similar process to ours,” Ian considers. “They made the play offs for the first time, last season, but they too struggled in the Super 8s but used that experience to benefit themselves, this year.
“That is going to make for a tough time for us on Friday, but there are three games left, and while we want to win all four to ensure our own destiny, we could still qualify for the semi-finals, if other results went our way, were we to slip up in one. The issue is that we need to do the job on Friday, and then back that up against Huddersfield, which would put us in a good position for the final two.”
Certainly, the weekend off will have been most welcome to the tired bodies we have seen in recent weeks, though Ian has a slightly different take on this.
“It is not so much the number of games people have played as the number of minutes, which is also determined by how long they might have had to stay on, in particular matches” he confides. “Some of our players have played more minutes this season than they have ever done before, but they have now had a week off, so let’s see what they can do as a team on Friday.”
Referee – Mr P Bentham
Touch Judges – P Brooke, J Smith
In-Goal Judges – N Lawrenson, D Arnold
Reserve Ref – A Smith