Noble seeks improvement after talks
Salford City Reds coach Brian Noble is hoping a round of clear-the-air talks will pay off tomorrow when his bottom-of-the-table team host St Helens at Barton.
As ambitious owner Marwan Koukash prepares to bring in a host of big-name players for 2014, the former Great Britain coach promised to clarify the futures of his current squad after admitting the uncertainty had begun to affect performances.
It is thought there could be as few as seven players guaranteed to be kept on next season as the Reds continue to be linked with players of the calibre of Michael Dobson, Adrian Morley, Rangi Chase, Harrison Hansen and Gareth Hock.
Noble pledged to act after claiming several players "appeared to lack commitment" during their 46-10 home defeat by Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in their last match.
"The players are probably fully aware now of where they stand or don't stand, which wasn't the case before I came," Noble said.
"I said I'd give everybody an opportunity and I think I've done that. I've been here seven weeks now and I think I've managed to make some assessments.
"I'm quite prepared to have my mind changed and there is still an opportunity for those who care to grasp it. However, everybody is aware of their future."
Noble has given up hope of getting Bradford Bulls’ want-away forward Elliott Whitehead in time for tomorrow's game and they could lose out altogether as Catalan Dragons step up their interest.
Australians Liam Foran and Vic Mauro, who joined Salford a month into the season, appear to have paid the price for the Wakefield debacle after being left out Noble's 19-man squad for the St Helens match.
"There were plenty of people beside them who looked like they lacked commitment," Noble said.
"We've shuffled the team around a little bit with a view to getting a bit of a response."
Noble's hands are tied by the existence of a small squad but he plans to take a look at teenager Niall Evalds, who made three Super League appearances earlier in the year.
"Niall's a full-back who can play a bit of wing," Noble said. "He's quick. I really like him. His attitude is first-class so we need to give him an opportunity."
Saints have lost second-rower Sia Soliola with a foot injury but have influential duo Jonny Lomax and James Roby back from long-term absences and showed signs of returning to form with a 30-18 win over Bradford in their last match.
"I know they've had a setback with Soliola this week but we're probably meeting a Saints side that is as strong as it's been for a while," Noble said.
"Getting Roby and Lomax back makes a huge difference to them. It's a great challenge for us.
"You want to be playing the best teams you possibly can because it means that your own commitments and your own ethics are measured correctly."
Although it is more than six weeks since his appointment, Daryl Powell will experience his first home game as Castleford Tigers head coach when Hull FC visit the Wish Communications Stadium tomorrow.
The Tigers have shown distinct improvement under Powell, who believes a return of three points from four games is scant reward for their endeavours.
"We'll go into this game with a lot of confidence," he said. "We've won one and drawn one of four games and I would have liked a better return.
"We didn't beat Leeds in our last match but we gave ourselves a real chance and, if we can tidy up some areas of our game, I'm confident we can come out of it with two points."
Hull's five-match winning run came to an abrupt end with a 30-4 hammering by Catalan Dragons and coach Peter Gentle admits they face a difficult test against a resurgent Castleford containing an in-form Chase.
"They have been playing well," Gentle said. "It always happens when a new coach comes in, the players find a new lease of life.
"They seem relaxed and Rangi seems to be playing his natural game, which is a good foil for other players to step up.
"It's a tough ask going there on Friday night to their home ground. They will be looking at our Hull KR and Catalan performances and thinking they'll have a real shot at us.
"We'll need to be on top of our game."