After two years of unparalleled highs for Salford, 2021 was a huge drop off. In 2019 they went all the way to Old Trafford and in 2020, despite a disappointing league campaign, the Red Devils got to Wembley. However, the arrival of new coach Paul Rowley and some exciting signings have expectations high at Salford going into 2022 but to achieve success Rowley will need to settle on his strongest 17 which is easier said than done, however we’re going to give it a go today.
Fullback: Ryan Brierley
Few players in Super League have an eye for an opportunity like Ryan Brierley. Always a try scoring machine when playing under Rowley at Leigh and Toronto, next season with two top class halfbacks in the side alongside him he could become one of the most dangerous attacking weapons in Super League now playing for his boyhood club. A special talent, he should be a joy to watch in the red of Salford in 2022.
Wingers: Ken Sio and Rhys Williams
A member of the 2021 Super League Dream Team and the competition’s top try scorer, Salford fans were elated when Ken Sio committed to the Red Devils for 2022. An outstanding try scorer and an athletic outside back, he has everything you want from a modern winger. Almost certain to start, the bigger question is who will join him on the wing next year. Salford have plenty of options on the flank including Deon Cross and Grand Final winner Joe Burgess. Even Morgan Escare can play there and did so impressively in 2021. However, the consistency of Rhys Williams over the last couple of years means he could get the nod ahead of the other talented wingers at the club. No stranger to a long range try, he crossed for a magnificent long range effort at Wembley in 2020 and he’ll help the Salford attack next term.
Centres: Dan Sarginson and Tim Lafai
Centre is another position of strength for the Red Devils. Joe Burgess is also accomplished in the role and of course they have three-time Grand Final winner and England international Kallum Watkins in their squad but his persistent injury concerns and the arrival of 170-game NRL veteran Tim Lafai means Watkins will have to battle for a place in the first choice 17 when he fully recovers from his injury. That’s especially because of the quality of Grand Final winner Dan Sarginson. The former Wigan man has been great for Salford since joining in 2020 helping the club to Wembley that season.
Halfbacks: Brodie Croft and Marc Sneyd
This is perhaps the most exciting part of Salford’s side going into 2022. The arrival of two top class halves will give the Red Devils a real chance at pushing for play-off rugby next year. Brodie Croft was highly rated in the NRL and was seen as the perfect replacement for Cooper Cronk at Melbourne devastating Leeds in the 2018 World Club Challenge and guiding the Storm to the Grand Final later that year. With something to prove after an ill-fated stint at Brisbane he could take Super League by storm especially alongside Marc Sneyd. The two-time Lance Todd trophy winner has been one of the best halves in the league since leaving Salford in 2013. Together they could turn Salford into quite the threatening side.
Props: King Vuniyayawa and Sitaleki Akauola
Following the retirement of Lee Mossop and the departure of Sebastine Ikahihifo back to Huddersfield, Salford were left needing to bring in some new middles for 2022. They turned to explosive Warrington forward Sitaleki Akauola – who bizarrely can also play on the wing – and Leeds’ King Vuniyayawa after a promising first season in Super League. Their energy will give the Red Devils a good platform in 2022.
Hooker: Andy Ackers
At 27 years of age, Andy Ackers is hitting his prime as a player and reunited with former Toronto coach Paul Rowley, he could seriously kick on in 2021. A trustworthy and underrated player, he will give the likes of Sneyd and Croft great service in 2022.
Second-Rowers: Harvey Livett and Shane Wright
Harvey Livett was one of the corner stones for Salford last year. When they played well, he was often at the heart of it and was very consistent whether at second-row or filling in at centre. A hard-working backrower and certainly an attacking threat if his hat-trick at Headingley in 2018 is anything to go by, he’s the ideal player for Salford in the pack. He may be on the side lines now, but his quality for the Red Devils last year means he’ll come back into the side when fit alongside exciting signing Shane Wright. North Queensland’s rookie of the year in 2019, now at just 25 years of age, he’ll bring instant quality to the Red Devils next year.
Loose-Forward: Elijah Taylor
When fit, Elijah Taylor was a huge asset for Salford last season. Physical and skilful, he instantly announced himself as a quality player in Super League last year but injuries often derailed his momentum. If he can remain fit in 2022, he could become one of the top loose-forwards in the league next year.
Substitutes: Chris Atkin, Josh Johnson, Greg Burke, Sam Luckley
Salford have plenty of options both in the starting 17 and on the bench. It was incredibly hard selecting a bench with the likes of Danny Addy left out here. In the end I expect lots of hard-working forwards amongst Salford’s interchanges including Josh Johnson, Greg Burke and Sam Luckley who could also be swapped for other top forwards at Salford like Jack Ormondroyd whilst Chris Atkin will complete the bench due to his ability to cover hooker and the halves adding attacking flair as he does.