Papua New Guinea star Nene Macdonald reveals secret to Salford Red Devils’ success

Ben Olawumi
Nene Macdonald

Nene Macdonald celebrates his try for Salford Red Devils away against Warrington Wolves in Round 14 of the 2024 Super League season

The second-most metres made in the whole of Super League. Seven tries, two assists and over 100 tackles made at the midway mark in the season by Nene Macdonald. Salford Red Devils sit joint-fourth, and he’s loving life.

Last Friday night at Warrington Wolves as Salford completed the double over a side who will inevitably be in a top six berth come the end of the campaign, Macdonald was one of the stars of the show oncemore.

A sublime opening try paved the way for the rest of his Red Devils team-mates, who looked as slick as we’ve seen them in recent weeks.

Paul Rowley’s side missed out on the play-offs in 2023, and Macdonald is determined to ensure that won’t be the case again in 2024.

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Papua New Guinea star Nene Macdonald: ‘I feel like I’ve been given a chance to express myself’

Salford handed the Kumuls star a Super League lifeline following a complex departure from Leeds Rhinos, where he never managed to settle.

And Macdonald himself told LoveRugbyLeague he’s in an entirely different frame of mind compared to 12 months ago.

He said: “It’s been great so far this year. I feel like I’ve been given the chance to express myself.

“Last year, I was probably just running it and not being able to show off my full skillset, which Rowls has allowed me to do.

Nene Macdonald
Nene Macdonald celebrates a try for Salford Red Devils in 2024

“The team here have too – we’ve got Sneydy (Marc Sneyd) controlling the game and allowing me to float around the field and show what I can do.

“It’s wanting to play at your best and playing for the team. Last year, I was a bit unsettled, I guess, and I’ve come back with a better mindset.

“I’ve put my front foot forward, got in, trained hard and made sure I was there for my team-mates.

“Putting the team first really helps me play at my best, and we’ve got some great leaders across the board here who help me to do just that.”

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Macdonald reveals secret behind Salford Red Devils’ success

For a number of years now, Salford have been branded overachievers, and deservedly so.

Rowley and the team behind the scenes operate on a shoestring budget compared to most, but squeeze every bit of quality they can out of the group they put together.

Macdonald has detailed why and how that happens, admitting he believes they have as strong a bond as he’s been involved with.

He continued: “From the first day of me arriving at Salford, everyone’s been so welcoming. It felt like I was part of a team straight away… it felt like a group of mates that just wanted to play for each other, and they’ve welcomed me with open arms.

“It just shows that when you’re enjoying your footy, you’ll play good footy.

“I’ve been in a few teams over the years in the NRL, and one thing about teams that tend to be successful – or go the length – is that they’re tight-knit on and off the field.

“Going to team events together, going and hanging out, doing something outside of the field, it means that when you get on the field you want to tackle for them or make that run for them.

“That’s the difference between the good teams and the best teams.”

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‘Hopefully we can build something great and do something special at the end of the year’

Just when it looked like the Port Moresby-born back would be returning Down Under, Salford lured him back to Super League with a four-year deal, putting pen to paper on a contract which runs until the end of the 2027 season.

He’s not alone in his decision to commit long-term, with Sam Stone the latest to ink a new deal with the Red Devils, signing a contract extension which runs until the end of the 2026 campaign only earlier this month.

Nene Macdonald Salford Red Devils Alamy
Nene Macdonald celebrates his try for Salford Red Devils against Castleford Tigers

Macdonald believes more of the same type of business can only strengthen their bid for success, with the 29-year-old detailing his admiration for the club, saying: “It’s great to see players sticking by it.

“Hopefully they keep most of the players and we build a squad. It’s a small squad at the moment, but I love to be at a club like Salford.

“It’s a small club, but one that hopefully build into something and win a competition that only the main teams have won so far. To be a part of that and a part of history, I’d love that.

“We’ve got a long way to go and we’ve got a big team to build, but hopefully we can build something great and do something special at the end of the year.

“We’e building a great team and hopefully the support of the fans, Salford Council and everything that’s going on behind the scenes, we can get more sponsors and get more players.

“It’s difficult at the moment, but we’re doing well for where we’re at!”

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