Alongside David Clegg, Recently Appointed Assistant Coach, Willie Poching, Discusses Sunday’s Pre-Season Friendly At Halifax
Following a very promising display in the first of their three pre-season friendlies, at Championship side Rochdale Hornets, the Salford Red Devils turn their attention to a trip across the Pennines to take on Halifax in the Colin Dixon Memorial Trophy.
The overall performance, last Sunday, at Spotland, showed considerable promise, not least with their handling in the first fifteen minutes, or so.  This was certainly an aspect not lost on recently arrived Assistant Coach, Willie Poching.
“We gave ourselves a number of opportunities to post some early points,” he agrees, “but also we looked structurally very good, with cohesion and good understanding, which helped us execute the game plan.
“We fell away a bit later on, some of which was down to fatigue from having to defend, but, even there, there were good signs and we came up with some pretty good answers to Rochdale’s attacks.”
Of course there are always elements to cause concern, and at the end of this match it was the injury list we accrued which was the greatest talking point.
“It was an expensive game for us in this respect,” he acknowledges, “and some of the players are certainly unlikely to be available for this coming match, which means other people will get their chance to put themselves in contention for the Wigan opener.”
Despite being newly promoted from Championship 1, it was a spirited Hornets side that recovered from that early onslaught, and setback of conceding twelve points, to pull back to being in contention, early in the second half.
“You don’t worry too much about the scoreboard in these fixtures, but at 24-18, Rochdale had really put themselves in a good position,” he acknowledges.  “There were definitely many positive signs for them and their coaching staff to take away with them, and they provided good competition for us.
“I wish them all the best for the coming season.”
This coming week will see an increase in intensity when we travel over to The Shay, to take on Halifax.
“That’s the way our pre-season programme has been planned out, so that we build up match at a time to our opening Super League fixture,” he explains.  “Halifax, this Sunday, is a team which has been together for a while, and had some success in the last couple of years, under coach, Richard Marshall.
“It’s important to remember though, that the programme is about our improving week on week, and we shall be looking for that, in this next match.  We have a squad of twenty-eight players, who are all wanting to be in the team at the start of the season, so from those who played last week we shall be looking for some consistency this coming week, whilst for those who will be playing for the first time it will be a chance to put their hand up, and stake their claim.
”Halifax will give us a bit more quality opposition, with more cohesiveness and intensity.”
Within the opposition’s ranks, most remarkably, on Sunday, will be young Red Devil, Liam Bent, who has gone to them, on loan, for the season.  There can be very few who are as surprised as he, himself, is to be facing his own club.
“When I first found out I was going to Halifax for the season, it did occur to me, at the back of my mind, that something like this could happen, but I never really expected it to,” he reflects.
“I’m really looking forward to it, but am quite nervous ahead of it.  It will be really weird, playing against my own club but I am hoping to enjoy it.  It should be really good for me, and quite an experience.  It will be a good test for me as a player and I shall be wanting to play well in both attack and defence.   The whole Halifax team will be giving it a good go.”
One further additional dimension to the encounter is the fact that it will be being played for the Colin Dixon Memorial Trophy, in memory of the late international second rower, who played for both clubs, and,with that in contention, there will be an extra degree of competitiveness involved.
“It will be nice to have something to play for, and to have the possibility to come away with silverware, as a result,” Willie enthuses.  “When you play for something like this, which is in recognition of someone who has given great service to both clubs and to the game, it really is an honour to take part in the game itself, and even more so if you are able to win it.
“Coming away with the trophy would be nice, but we mustn’t forget the priority of putting in a really good performance, continuing some of the good stuff we showed last week, and getting some consistency going.  If we do that we shall come away with the spoils.”
In terms of consistency, there are a number of elements, from last week, which it would be good to see replicated on Sunday.  Chief of these, in Willie’s opinion, would be the start they had made, with such impressive, slick, handling.
“Some of our handling was outstanding, particularly for the first game, as it’s always a bit hit and miss at this stage,” he concedes.  “It doesn’t matter what you try to do in training, it isn’t possible to replicate the environment of a game, along with its physicality, fitness and stamina requirements.
“It’s only in a game itself, which can show you where you are at, in terms of development.  There were some good signs, last week, for us, as coaches.  Now we also want to see improvement in one or two areas in which we fell away, a little bit.”