Salford Red Devils exclusive: New recruit on ‘controlled chaos’, Manchester potential & how they can shock Super League

George Riley
Salford Red Devils badge, Featherstone Rovers badge, Chris Hankinson

New Salford Red Devils signing Chris Hankinson in action for Featherstone Rovers in 2023 - Alamy

Salford Red Devils can tap into the huge Manchester sporting fan-base, and have the potential to become one of the dominant forces in Super League. 

That’s the view of star centre Chris Hankinson, who has spoken exclusively to Love Rugby League of the nightmare end to his time at Featherstone Rovers and his belief that Salford can shock Super League’s big clubs in 2024.

The 30-year-old is back in his native North West ahead of a season with the Red Devils that he believes can bring success against the odds, having seen star men Andy Ackers and Brodie Croft join rivals Leeds Rhinos in the off-season.

Salford Red Devils exclusive: New recruit Chris Hankinson on ‘controlled chaos’, Manchester potential & how they can shock Super League

It is both the untapped potential of the region, and Salford’s stylish brand of rugby league, that have left Hankinson believing Paul Rowley’s side can once again be a surprise package.

“I’m a competitor and want to win everything,” Hankinson told Love Rugby League.

“If you don’t have that mindset, then it doesn’t hurt as much when you lose. Hopefully when you are surrounded by players like we have at Salford, they have that mentality too, so only good things can come of it. 

“There is still a lot of quality here and it is not just the personnel, it is the style. When I was at Toulouse (Olympique), we watched Salford, and I was pushing Rowley’s form of playing even then when I was in France.

“It was French flair – let’s play from all over the park. It shocks teams and they don’t like to play against it. It’s controlled chaos and it is hard to defend.

“We are better than any other team at that. We have practiced it all pre-season and that is the edge we have over other people.

“Then there is Manchester  – a huge city, and we have to get close to the people. People all over the world know Manchester because of Manchester United and Manchester City, and we need to use that. Look at the NRL going to Las Vegas. That can snowball and have an effect on Super League.

“The potential in Manchester is huge. Football is dominant, so to show what rugby league is about, we have to win things and grow an attraction that hopefully people will follow.”

Hankinson talks Featherstone Rovers disappointment as he predicts ‘a few hard years ahead’ at Post Office Road

Hankinson links up with the Red Devils having endured a bitter end at ambitious Featherstone, whose plans to gain their first-ever promotion to Super League suffered a humiliating end against London Broncos in the Championship play-off semi-finals.

Featherstone was a massive anti-climax because we built our season up and the League Leaders’ Shield meant nothing,” he said.

We didn’t achieve our goal, and what has happened since then has been difficult to deal with. I put my heart and soul into that and it was a shock to lose that semi-final.

“We knew London were coming to us in-form, but we didn’t plan to play as bad as we did. We had been firing, we thought it would be close or a runaway for us, so it was disappointing. 

“Last year was the best chance Fev have had ever. The sad thing about it is that financially, they have had to restrain a lot and had a huge turnover of players.

“There is a new era going on there now, and I hope they can flip it around. It is going to be a few hard years ahead for them. 

“Fortunately for me personally, things have turned out for the best. I have always considered myself a Super League player even though I had the season with Toulouse and then Featherstone, but my intensity has never dropped.

“Sometimes it is difficult when you play a lesser competition and your standards can drop. People are less athletic, and the conditions are worse, but I have always tried to be the same wherever I have been.”

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