The Round Up Review, October: With just a few weeks to go to Pre-Season, closure on the much-rumoured Joe Westerman deal draws a timely line under the frustration of the 2015 season and means we can turn the page and start looking forward in earnest to 2016. The mood music coming from the club has picked up tempo since the last issue and this week we got some valuable insight on the “State of the Nation” when AP and Radders took questions on Radio Humberside.
Finances have been a source of concern going into the close season, but pressures seem to be easing as pass sales hold up more robustly than expected (3,200, and up on previous seasons at this point), the home shirt has landed well with numbers flying and we’ve brought in specific resource to get after business sponsorship which apparently had been a lower priority during AP’s sojourn at Leeds United. The relief that supporters are moving once again to back the club is palpable, but as always the caveat is that we need to get back to the levels of 5+ years ago to drive resources to support a challenge of the Top Four. A further source of optimism was the news that a change in CEO of the SMC has brought with it a potentially positive shift in that relationship and discussions are underway to develop some joint ventures to drive attendances in the right direction. Given the challenges this arrangement has yielded over the last couple of years it would be a real step forward if goals could be aligned rather than set up in direct opposition to each other.
Obviously as it stands, the sale of Westerman to Warrington will also ease immediate cashflow. Touted around other clubs for 2017 and beyond, and backing up a stellar 2014 with an injury-hit and inconsistent season, the choice to cash in by the club once negotiations for a fee hit £150k is completely understandable. As importantly there’s the small matter of creating cap space to potentially strengthen outside a back-row already populated with special quality. Justin Carney is now a name out the frame, and would have been a high risk, yet high potential reward signing to polarise opinion but ultimately with 72 tries in 67 games for Castleford one which we’d be crazy not to at least entertain.
From a playing perspective it was interesting to hear Radford echoing the sentiments of supporters; we’re punching above our weight in terms of tacklebusts and line breaks – there are no issues in our ability to get up the field – but accurate execution is our number one weakness and will be the focus from the off for pre season. If we can get this right, and translate 3 games lost this year into 3 wins, the push for top 6 and beyond is on. One thing that wasn’t discussed at length but which I think is also worth drawing out, is the number of homegrown players with Super League games under their belt that we take into next season. No fewer than 15 (fifteen) of our squad fit into this category – I can’t remember when the number was this high previously. Whilst admittedly some of these have only debuted out of necessity in the Super 8s, the fact that we’ve shown faith in them and demonstrated a pathway to first team rugby has to be commended.
So all in all we go into November well set for a strong build-up to 2016. Excellent recruits coming in, money to play with to strengthen. Or as Macklemore would put it: “Got gas in the tank, cash in the bank..”
Round-Up Player of the Month…
Seems a bit strange to be talking about this without a ball being kicked, but plenty of the squad have been busy attending local youth rugby presentations, and Feka as usual has gone the extra mile with half term camps. A mention too to Mini, whose extraordinary thighs on the home shirt promotional photos led some on Twitter to speculate as to whether his knees had been photoshopped out. However this month’s winner is undoubtedly Scott Taylor. Embracing the club he supported as a youngster he’s already made good on the unanimously positive endorsements from Salford fans and pitched in at both FC Mastermind and a couple of shirt launch events; if we get the same level of commitment on the pitch we’re definitely onto a winner with this sort.