Salford seek stability
Salford City Reds hope the confirmation of Shaun McRae’s departure from the club can help stabilise their turbulent season, starting with the Engage Super League clash against Harlequins RL tomorrow.
McRae, who has been on sick leave for the last two months, last week confirmed he would not seek a renewal of his contract at the end of the season and today the Reds announced they have agreed to part company with the 51-year-old Australian with immediate effect.
With assistant coach Malcolm Alker also on sick leave and in dispute with the club, Salford's off-field drama have clearly affected playing performances.
Theys have won just one of their last five matches to slip to 12th in the table and conceded 112 points in their two Easter fixtures against Warrington Wolves and Huddersfield Giants.
Now much of the uncertainty off the field has been cleared up, football director Steve Simms believes it can help the players concentrate on getting their performances right.
“It’s not ideal at this stage of the season not to have a head coach,” he said. “Hopefully it gives us some stability, having someone in charge the players can relate to.”
Former Wigan Warriors assistant coach Phil Veivers remains in charge for the game against Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop tomorrow, and this week he threw his hat into the ring in a bid to fill the vacancy.
Simms says the club have received plenty of applications and admits they could now appoint a successor to McRae before the end of the season.
Former Wigan scrum-half Adrian Lam, now assistant coach at St George Illawarra, and South Sydney number two Kurt Wrigley have already been linked with the job.
“There’s been a lot of interest from both overseas and from here,” said Simms. “We’re still getting applications in.
“Initially they were for next year but this changes things. If the right man is available we could make an appointment this season but we’ve got to assess everything. We’ve an open mind.”
Meanwhile, Harlequins forward Oliver Wilkes says his side will be wary of the threat posed by the Reds despite their recent dismal run.
“Salford have had a torrid start, more off the field than on it, but they’ve some quality in their side,” he said.
“They’ve got internationals in there and (Iafeta) Paleaeaasina is a big truck. It’s always difficult against Salford.”
Quins are looking to halt a seven-match run without a win which has seen them plummet from top spot to the bottom half of the table, but Wilkes, who has not missed a game for the Londoners since joining them from Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 18 months ago, dismisses any notion of a crisis.
“It’s a tough season and a long season and we’ve taken a few bumps and bangs in the last few weeks, but we’ve a bit of strength in depth this year,” he said.
“If someone had said at the start of the year that we’d have nine points from our first 12 games, I don’t think we would have been too unhappy with that.
“It’s just that we had such a great start and expectations were set high. But if we keep working hard and keep believing in what we’re doing, we should be okay.”
Leaders Huddersfield go to Perpignan tomorrow aiming for a third successive win at Gilbert Brutus Stadium over Catalan Dragons.
Hooker Shaun Lunt, who made a tryscoring debut in the south of France in the Giants’ opening match of the 2009 season, will again be watched by his mother Julie, who lives near Montpellier, an hour’s drive from Perpignan.
“On both occasions she’s watched us play there we’ve won, so I’m hoping she continues to be a lucky omen for us,” said Lunt.
The Giants face a rejuvenated Catalan side who have surged into the play-off places on the back of a four-match unbeaten run.