Eye On Rugby League by Tony Williams
It's great to see a team from near the bottom of the engage Super League kicking on and making their mark on the competition. Salford City Reds have been the surprise package of SLXI with their superb performances making a mockery of pre-season relegation talk.
The Reds now sit fourth in the league, with only St Helens, Bradford and Leeds (the big three?) above them. And it's fantastic for a team that had hitherto been one of the perennial strugglers of Super League to be up there with the best.
Salford had started the season brightly with a 24-6 win over Warrington and a 16-0 defeat of the Catalans. A relatively heavy loss at Bradford was only a minor blip, and this was followed by highly impressive victories over Wakefield and Wigan.
The Reds' latest performance against Leeds Rhinos was an excellent one, and would have earned victory over lesser sides. However, even though the Rhinos were just too good, Salford still deserve all the credit they have been getting.
The likes of Andrew Dunneman, Luke Robinson, David Hodgson, Karl Fitzpatrick, Stuart Littler and Simon Finnigan have been instrumental in attack for the Reds so far this campaign, but arguably even more impressive have been the solid defence. It was no fluke that Salford conceded only six points in their opening two games, and even in defeat away at Headingley they conceded only twenty.
That a team can make the kind of progress that Salford have is a testament to the current system in Super League. With talk of franchises in the pipeline, let's not forget that such a system would have seen the Reds excluded from the top flight. That can't be right.
And what lies in store for Salford? If they can continue their current form a play-off place will be a dead cert, and well deserved.
Another ‘small' team on the up are the newly promoted Castleford Tigers. At the start of the year many people, myself included, saw only a season of trouble ahead for Cas ending in a return to National League football.
But I am happy to be proved wrong by the Tigers, who have performed above and beyond themselves so far this season. Wins over the Catalans, Harlequins and, most recently, Wigan have turned relegation talk into talk of reaching the play-offs.
Okay, it's a bit early to be saying things like that, but it's fair to say that Castleford are definitely good enough to stay in Super League.
But while teams are climbing up the Super League, others will inevitably become dislodged. Wigan Warriors have been one of the poorest sides in the league so far, and sit second to bottom in the table.
It's hard to see what the problem is, but when a club the size of Wigan hits such difficulty, mistakes have been made. The 38-18 defeat at Castleford really summed up the Warriors' season so far, and began talk of relegation for the club.
Personally, I think that the relegation talk is something of a knee-jerk reaction, but that it's even being discussed shows that the rugby league times are changing.
No club is too big to be relegated however, just look at Nottingham Forest in soccer. And if the Warriors did finish bottom (or maybe second to bottom as circumstances dictate) would they be saved by the RFL?
In my opinion, Wigan can still turn things around before it's too late, and even if they did go down, they would surely bounce back.
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