Salford gave it their absolute all today in defeat against Champions St Helens who are looking to win a fourth consecutive Grand Final up against Leeds.
But could have been Salford at some points of today’s game the way the Red Devils challenged the Champions.
It was an unlucky game for the Devils too as they could have received a penalty try late on which could have helped them claw to victory but in a bigger blow they lost star hooker Andy Ackers after two minutes after he failed his Head Injury Assessment (HIA) which coach Paul Rowley described as “massive” after the loss of star halfback Brodie Croft this week through the same system.
“Massive to be honest, after two minutes,” Rowley said of the incident, “Best hooker in the comp to lose him especially after losing Brodie Croft. Going all year with a settled spine until when it matters.”
Losing both was key to Salford’s defeat and it is something Leeds are set to wrestle with in the Grand Final next week with questions over whether Aidan Sezer will play after a late hit from Wigan’s John Bateman last night.
For Rowley there is a simple solution to stopping players like Sezer and Croft missing big games through concussion noting that player safety must come first: “It is a case of that because a player’s health and well being is paramount but what I would say is at this time of year lets stretch out the excitement and play the games 10 days apart and then you fix your problems straight away.
“It’s a bit quick, there’s no rush, build the excitement and get your best players out. Failing that maybe from Australia there’s a route to take if you get a specialist to clear them then it’s clear.
“The health of the player comes first.”
What makes this solution all the more sensible is the fact that both Ackers and Croft are now physically okay and would have been able to play in Croft’s case had the semi-final adopted this wider gap between fixtures.
Rowley did reveal that Ken Sio is struggling after he also suffered a head knock: “He [Croft] was physically okay after five minutes that’s the annoying bit and that’s where with the NRL you can see a specialist. Same with Ackers but Ken’s not.”