In our ninth edition of ‘Starting XVII’, we focus on last year’s Super League runners-up, Salford.
The Red Devils had a fine campaign and were the season’s unsung heroes before falling at the final hurdle to St Helens at Old Trafford.
Since then, their squad has seen a drastic overhaul, with several key players departing. So how will Ian Watson’s new group of players shape up in 2020?
Fullback – Niall Evalds
The livewire fullback enjoyed his most fruitful season to date in 2020, making it to a Grand Final and finishing as Super League’s joint-second top try-scorer. He’ll be integral to Ian Watson’s side in 2020 if they hope to once again challenge for the title.
Wingers – Ken Sio and Krisnan Inu
Every good team relies on it’s wingers to be good finishers and that’s exactly what Sio and Inu are. They both have superb handling and athleticism, while they’re solid in defence and under the high ball.
Centres – Kris Welham and Dan Sarginson
Welham is somewhat of an unsung hero. He’s by no means the flashiest player, but rather gets the job done by playing simple but effective rugby. Sarginson will complement that well as he comes in from Wigan. He’s got great footwork and a superb offload, so should combine well with Inu down the left flank.
Halves – Tui Lolohea and Kevin Brown
Lolohea went from zero to hero when he joined the Devils mid-season from Leeds. Playing alongside Jackson Hastings gave him the freedom to play at the line and improvise, which brought out the best side of his game. The challenge next season will be whether or not Brown can provide the same stability.
Props – Lee Mossop and Gil Dudson
Mossop and Dudson were among the best forwards in Super League last season. Salford’s pack as a whole were extremely mobile going forward, making them tough to match, and much of the same will be expected in 2020. Mossop’s leadership was key in their march towards Old Trafford, while Dudson provided the size and brute force needed to set the platform for the pivots to work their magic.
Hooker – Joey Lussick
Lussick’s dynamic approach to the game earned him plenty of plaudits in 2019. His intelligent decision making and solid defence have seen his stock rise significantly, even garnering interest from back home in the NRL.
Second Rowers – Tyrone McCarthy and Pauli Pauli
Despite being 30, McCarthy still plays the same as when he broke onto the scene with Warrington 10 years ago – without fear. His experience is essential in the Devils’ forward pack, while he is influential either as a wide or middle runner. Pauli, on the other hand, brings sheer power and size to the table. He was, perhaps, overshadowed by fellow man mountain David Fifita at Wakefield but, working under Ian Watson, could fulfil his potential in 2020.
Loose Forward – Luke Yates
Yates was one of the standout performers for London last season. Signed as a virtually-unknown entity from Newcastle Knights, he went on to finish 2019 as the competition’s second top tackler and was highly sought-after. The 24-year-old will be hoping for similar next season only this time with some silverware.
Subs – Ryan Lannon, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Adam Walker and Mark Flanagan
The bench is occupied by two props, a back rower and a utility. Heavy hitting front rowers Walker and Ikahihifo provide plenty of impact, with the latter looking to prove a point after a disappointing 2019 campaign with Huddersfield. Lannon, meanwhile, improved drastically after returning to the Red Devils on loan last term, establishing himself as a regular part of the matchday XVII. Finally, co-captain Flanagan, who can operate either in the back row or at hooker, fulfils the bench utility role, whilst also providing extra leadership for when Mossop is off the field.