New Salford coach Richard Marshall looking to topple former club St Helens
Four months on from helping mastermind St Helens’ dramatic Grand Final triumph, Richard Marshall will be trying to ensure their title defence gets off to the worst possible start.
Marshall left his role of assistant coach with Saints after their epic 8-4 win over Wigan to succeed Ian Watson at Salford and will go up against his old club straight off in the opening game of the Betfred Super League season at Headingley on Friday night.
St Helens head coach Kristian Woolf, whose side are aiming for a hat-trick of Grand Final successes, said: “It’s an interesting one. He knows a lot about us, we obviously know a little bit about him.
“At the same time I know he’s going to try a few new things and different things.
“I think he’ll do a great job with Salford, I think he will really improve them. It’s going to be a great challenge and at the same time it’s going to be a bit of fun going up against him in round one.”
Salford finished third from bottom last year but half-back Kevin Brown, at 36 the oldest man in Super League, is confident Marshall can once more make the 2019 Grand Final runners-up competitive.
“Richard is good and so is (assistant coach) Danny Orr,” Brown said. “We’ve got a new conditioner too so we’re being challenged from completely different areas.
“It’s been refreshing. Everything is completely different this year. There’s lots of different ideas and lots of new players to get used to too.
“Playing St Helens first is exciting. There’s probably no better time to play them than when we’ve just got one of their coaches.
“I’m sure Rich will know them as good as anyone. Saints have been the best team for three years now so it’s an exciting chance to see where we’re at.”
The first part of Friday’s opening double-header will be followed by a derby between beaten Grand Finalists Wigan and newly-promoted Leigh.
The Centurions gained a 50-34 victory in their last meeting with the Warriors in 2017 and Wigan coach Adrian Lam knows from personal experience not to take them lightly.
“There’s always been a massive rivalry between Leigh and Wigan,” Lam said. “I’ve experienced that myself as a player in a Challenge Cup tie in 2002. It was a nightmare, I can still remember it.
“The game was delayed by 20 minutes because of fighting outside the ground, there was also a monsoon and the rain was three or four inches deep.
“Leigh were leading something like 16-4 after 25 minutes and I remember thinking ‘here we go, it’s going to be one of those days’.
“I remember Andrew Farrell standing up that day. What he did single-handedly won us the game. We went on to win the final but that was certainly the biggest hurdle.
“It’s a love-hate relationship with Leigh and that will be no different on Friday night. It’s at Headingley so luckily we don’t have to travel to Leigh.
“I think they’ll win a lot of games and cause a lot of upsets. We know they will come out the blocks at 100 miles an hour and we’re ready for that.”
It could be a good time for Leigh to play Wigan, who will be without Australian duo Bevan French and Jackson Hastings as well as injured threequarters Oliver Gildart, Dom Manfredi and Liam Marshall, but Centurions coach John Duffy remains wary of them.
“I don’t think there’s ever a good time to play Wigan,” he said. “They’ve got a conveyor belt of players at the club. I’ve coached there so I know what it’s like.
“It’s a massive challenge for us and a local derby which adds extra bit of spice.”