Thunder and Lightning: Salford and Castleford

I recently read an old Apache proverb: “It is better to have lightning in the hand, rather than thunder in the mouth.” It struck me that there are currently some in the sport of rugby league who would be wise to heed its message.

There has been a lot of big talk in the game in this country recently. Club owners have begun to hog the headlines, speaking about big plans and big success. The latest situation at Featherstone is an example, where the club, located in a town of around 15000 people, is set for reportedly massive investment.

The situation at Salford has been well-documented. Dr Marwan Koukash, an entrepreneur with a brash and outspoken style, as well as a proven track record in other sectors, has brought cash and high hopes to the AJ Bell Stadium.

He has started the ‘Redevilution’, something which that famous old club desperately needed. He has brought column inches to the sport, and, crucially, invested heaps of cash. These are all very good things.

Do not get me wrong, I am very much in favour of more people like Koukash coming into the game, and making it more dynamic. They shake things up, and force the game to look at itself and to change.

But actual achievement has so far been pretty thin on the ground.

Indeed, one of the better players at the Red Devils, and a genuine prospect for the future, Theo Fages, appears to have been somewhat sidelined due to the recruitment of bigger names. A shame, as the young Frenchman has the potential to be one of Super League’s best halfbacks, if he plays enough games.

Brian Noble’s exit brought an element of Italian soccer-style farce to proceedings. Iestyn Harris, his replacement, has not set the Pennine heather alight so far, with three defeats. 

The hierarchy have also not been shy when it comes to announcing what they are going to do. Anybody remember the announcement that the Red Devils were on the verge of signing British Lions test stars from rugby union? Well, they haven’t arrived yet.

Success in sport can take years to arrive, and the rebuilding of a club cannot be expected to take mere months. Repeated demands for immediate success only make a club look absurd, especially when they keep losing.

Contrast the brashness with Castleford Tigers, a club at which most non-fans would struggle to know just who the owners were. Also contrast the coaching situation at the Tigers, where a respected and well-established coach has been allowed to build the team he wants.

That team has been one of Super League’s early pace setters, impressing many observers with their committed and attacking brand of rugby. There are few current stars in that Tigers team, but there are some bloody good players. They also have a spirit and togetherness which other clubs must look at with envy.

Humility is a quality which is often underrated in sport, but Castleford possess it in abundance. Which, one senses, makes their current success even more satisfying for anyone connected with the club.

So for neutrals, the question is who would you rather be a fan of at the moment? Salford or Castleford?

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