Big Interview: Matty Smith

John Stankevitch caught up with Salford half-back Matty Smith to discuss their encouraging start to the season and the impact of Sean Long at the club.

 

Q – Salford have new coaching staff for 2012 and currently sit in 7th place, I suppose you could say so far so good?

Taking away the last two heavy defeats, yes it’s far so good. I think if we put things into perspective, not many people would have expected us to beat Catalan Dragons over in France or beat Leeds Rhinos at home as they are two absolutely quality teams, but I think the difference with us players this year is that we actually believe that we can compete against this standard of opposition. The most disappointing thing from our point of view is that we had some really good spells within each game, but were convincingly beaten in each by a margin of points that we weren’t happy with.

 

Q – Some big results so far, including three wins on the trot. The particular stand out would have to be the victory over Hull FC, as this has been Hull FC’s only defeat in Super League this year. But a little bit of inconsistency has probably brought everybody back down to earth?

Yes that’s probably fair to say. Our attack overall has been excellent and we really have pushed some very good teams around the park, with some exciting set plays and also some off the cuff stuff. I think all of the players are confident when they have the ball and that shines through at times because we really do look like we are enjoying ourselves. Defensively however, we haven’t been as good as we would have liked, but any player or coach will tell you that defence is a different mentality altogether than that which you have in attack, it takes time to pull things together and a lot of trust across the line and in each other to build a strong defensive platform. We know that we are a work in progress in defence and we are working hard to put small things right.

 

Q – People have commented that Salford are playing the best Rugby League they have done for years, with a lot more adventure and risk about their attacking play. Has Sean Long has much of an influence?

We’ve made a good start to the season, probably slightly better than our own fans expected to be honest, but we knew at the beginning of pre season that we had some players that could play with the ball. Longy has come in and taken the lead with an attacking focus, and he has been influential in putting down a simple but effective structure so that each player knows his own role within the team. I have been playing a lot this year at Plus 1, which means that I am getting my hands on the ball a lot more, and I’m able to create space for others in the team. I suppose having an Ex Super League Man of Steel, and especially a half back with so much experience on the coaching team, gets everybody excited anyway and his style of play was always to ask the defence questions when he had the ball and it seems to be rubbing off on everybody.

 

Q – Would you take 8th place then, if you could guarantee it now? Or have you got team goals to finish even higher?

I think before we even think about finishing positions, we have to worry about getting our defence sorted out. We have shown that we can score points this season, but we haven’t yet won a game purely by defending a team out of the game, so to finish in the Play Off spots, we need to be a team that can shut the opposition out. That said, I think everybody would have taken 8th place at the beginning of the year, but it’s a funny one really because now we are where we are, we genuinely believe we can finish even higher. 8th place would be a great achievement for the club, but we have made steady progress over the last few seasons and hopefully this year we will make a big statement.

 

Q – Personally, in a new stadium, on a new playing surface, with new coaches, has it been a breath of fresh air?

It’s great to be playing in a team with a good bond, and in surroundings that are modern and new, but I get my overall enjoyment from seeing the hard work in the week pay off at the weekend. It’s great to play at the new stadium and to be learning new things of Sean Long and Phil Veivers and hopefully we can continue to improve over the course of the season. The fans deserve to be rewarded for their support and whilst we appreciate that some weeks we may not be quite on our A game, we have prepared to go toe to toe with the teams that are in and around us on the league ladder.

 

Q – As we have mentioned, you have recently suffered defeats to Catalan Dragons and Leeds Rhinos, with this in mind, have you targeted as a group, certain fixtures that you feel you must win, or fixtures that you are confident that you can get something from?

I think I’d be lying if personally I didn’t think about beating certain teams. The squad focus at the start of the year was about preparing for every game, and although each game plan for each opposition will be different, we approach each game with the same attitude. Our performances will no doubt vary, as we are a new side with new philosophies and a new approach, and this will cause inconsistency at times, but our focus will be on the end of the year and knowing that if we can perform at a certain level every week, then the weaker teams that we play will be games that we will win. We are confident that we have a strong squad, and believe that we can beat certain teams, and if we can win those games that we believe we can, we will be there or thereabouts come September and October. 

 

Q – Lastly then, seeing Salford City Reds in a Play Off spot would be a huge boost to the club and fans, but also to the local area, do you think that if everything goes to plan and you manage to make the top 8, you will have overachieved?

I’m not sure overachieved is the right word, as we set our standards high, but I don’t think any of us could have envisaged the quality of rugby that we have played at times this year so far. But there is the negative side, because we have fallen well below that level also, within a matter of games, so it’s difficult to get to grips with the poor performances when you know you can perform so well. Overall, if we do end up making the top 8, we will obviously deserve to be there based on performances.

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