Both Castleford and Salford begin new eras tomorrow night. The Tigers, after eight years under Daryl Powell, begin the reign of Lee Radford who has arrived at the Jungle alongside a number of smart signings. As for Salford, they too welcome a new coach in the shape of Paul Rowley and have assembled an exciting new-look spine.
Looking at the Tigers, they have one of the deepest squads in the league and superb quality across their first choice 17 and beyond. First and foremost, Castleford will want to simply secure a place in the play-offs but there’s a belief they could even force their way into the top four and a win in Round One will certainly get them headed in the right direction.
Meanwhile, for the Red Devils 2022 is predicted to be another season where they end the year closer to 12th than the play-offs but with Brodie Croft and Ryan Brierley alongside the returning Marc Sneyd, they have a spine more than capable of guiding the Red Devils to the play-offs. The surprise package of Super League XXVII? Perhaps.
But which team will get off to a winning start tomorrow? We’re looking at both sides’ chances and the key battles and areas of this Round One clash.
Niall Evalds v Ryan Brierley: Former Salford fullback Niall Evalds is one of the best attacking players in Super League and we saw that in a Man of the Match display at Wembley last year. Behind some brilliant forwards and alongside some top notch halves, he could find another level in 2022. The Red Devils will want to shut down the threat he offers out the back if they want to get off to a positive start in 2022. They’ll have an attacking weapon of their own at fullback however in the shape of Ryan Brierley. Always at his best under Paul Rowley, he’d be a solid bet to score a try tomorrow night. Given a good platform by his teammates, he could torment the Tigers.
Jake Mamo v Dan Sarginson: Two outstanding centres, this could be an intriguing battle and the centre who has the better game could come up the bit of magic to guide their side to victory tomorrow. Jake Mamo is set to make his Tigers debut and if he maintains the attacking prowess he showed at Warrington last year he could be hard to stop but Dan Sarginson is a mercurial talent who’ll take some stopping at centre where he’ll likely play with Kallum Watkins still injured.
Joe Westerman v Elijah Taylor: Another of Castleford’s new signings, Joe Westerman is back home. He showed his qualities at Wakefield last year blending physicality with skill and if he dominates the middle of the field on debut then Castleford could have the platform they need for victory. However, the tenacious Elijah Taylor will make it tough for Westerman to take command of the middle channel. A top notch 13, he could be one of Salford’s key players in 2022.
Where the game will be won and lost:
Ultimately, the halfbacks could be the key to victory in this game. You’d expect the Tigers’ pack to get on top of Salford’s but the potency of Marc Sneyd’s boot – he’s often capable of finding something like a 40/20 when his side is on the backfoot – could make things more difficult for the Tigers in terms of territory and field position.
However, if he fails to find the turf with his kicks and instead gives Castleford’s big wingers – be it Mahe Fonua, Burerta Faraimo or Derrell Olpherts – an easy route forward on kick returns, the initiative would certainly be in the hands of the Tigers.
Salford will take some beating. Often a tenacious opponent and with plenty of class and an exciting spine, they could give the fancied Tigers a bloody nose but should Castleford control the middle of the field and start sets strongly, they may get a roll on and be difficult to stop.
Verdict: Castleford 30-12 Salford