Rugby League Expert
Wakefield, Huddersfield and Salford are next up on Sky Sports rugby league pundit Jon Wells’ tour of the changes taking place across the Betfred Super League heading into 2022
Last Updated: 23/11/21 10:48am
Continuing his look at how the 12 Super League clubs are preparing for the new season, part three sees Sky Sports rugby league expert Jon Wells drop in on Wakefield Trinity, Huddersfield Giants and Salford Red Devils…
Morning! Hope you slept well, because we have got a big day ahead and three more Super League clubs to take a close look at, though these appear to be calmer waters than what comes later in the Tour.
Let’s get going then, but not for long, because our next stop is just 10 miles from Castleford as the crow flies, and as we pull up at Belle Vue you could be forgiven for thinking there is not much to talk about here. Well, you would be mistaken.
Wakefield Trinity is another club which have not been panicked into action because their aim, bluntly, is not realistically to win the Grand Final in 2022 but to continue to develop on really solid foundations put in place by Chris Chester.
Their ongoing mission is to compete, to disrupt, and to develop again, and while they may have limited resources relative to some of the leagues’ big hitters, just take a minute to walk into the coach’s office over here and look at the roster on the wall.
You see, Trinity have a core of players who have been together for some time, a stable foundation in the form of guys like Max Jowitt, Bill Tupou and Jacob Miller. You will also notice a sprinkling of stars who would walk into most other Super League teams – think Tom Johnstone, James Batchelor, Kelepi Tanginoa.
But there are two really interesting new signings head coach Willie Poching has brought to the club which should see them progress on the field this coming season.
Liam Hood is a durable, livewire hooker who joins from Leigh Centurions and he is accompanied by experienced utility man Lee Gaskell. On his day, Gaskell is a match-winner and all involved will hope he realises that potential at Trinity in 2022.
Now, in order to get to our next club, we need to travel in the opposite direction to Gaskell as we are on our way to the John Smith’s Stadium, where Huddersfield Giants play their home games. This for me is the third club, after Hull KR and Wakefield Trinity, to whom I would not attribute any pressing of big red buttons.
Because they did that last year – and what a roll of the dice that was from owner Ken Davy. The Giants’ refresh came 12 months ago, which is exactly how long head coach Ian Watson has had to wait before he finally got his man.
The former Salford Red Devils head coach made no secret of his desire to bring Tui Lolohea with him to the Giants ahead of the 2021 season, but salary cap limitations and that desire just could not be reconciled to allow that to happen at the time.
But he’s here now, Ian, and that’s what matters going forward. Add to that the arrival of Theo Fages from St Helens and the emergence of potential mega-talent Will Pryce, and I think the Giants have a pretty special creative hub in place there.
These articles have been peppered with news of new half-back pairings. Indeed, over half of Super League’s clubs will have opted to change one or both of their starting halves for the 2022 season, and our next destination is one of those.
Salford have had to navigate some pretty choppy waters since a breakthrough season and an inaugural Grand Final appearance back in 2019. They have persistently been asset-stripped at the end of seasons, and time and time again they manage to put together a competitive squad for the year ahead.
This off-season has been no different, although they have kept the exit path relatively lightly-trodden in limiting playing departures to the aforementioned Lolohea, Krisnan Inu to the French Elite 1 championship, Pauli Pauli to the Betfred Championship and the retirement of Kevin Brown, who brings to an end a wonderful 17-year and 350-plus game career.
The big changes, as we pull up here at the Red Devils’ training ground, come at the top as well as in the halves, and we’ll start by looking at the new name etched on the glass of the head coach’s office. The glazers have been busy here recently, removing the pane with Richard Marshall’s name on it, in turn only 11 months after they swapped out Ian Watson’s name for his.
It was such a disappointment to hear that Marshall and the Red Devils were to part ways less than a year into his first head coach role at a Super League club. Still, that’s part of the deal and coaches know that going into the job, and that fact will not be lost on the incoming Paul Rowley, keen to resurrect a coaching career which had such a promising start with Leigh and Toronto Wolfpack.
To the big changes on field then – and our side discussion on the popularity of new half-back pairings. In come ex-Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos half Brodie Croft and former Hull FC stalwart Marc Sneyd.
That has to be exciting for Salford fans; two high-quality players, coached by a man with a point to prove and assisted in turn by a former international half-back in Danny Orr.
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The hope is they are afforded time to play on the front foot following the further recruitment of three big, hard-nosed forwards in the form of King Vuniyayawa, Sitaleke Akauola and Shane Wright. Big changes, indeed.
That’s all from us for today. We’ll pick up the final leg of our Big Changes Tour tomorrow when we criss-cross the North-West and take a peek around three of the heavyweights in Super League.
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