THE ‘story’ about Salford Red Devils trying to postpone last night’s game with Hull FC was truly one of those ‘only in rugby league’ moments.
It would have been easier just to believe it was the Doctor’s latest crazy Twitter wind-up which have been pretty amusing at times given the enigmatic Salford owner’s banter on social media.
But when it emerged it was for real – his club asked the Black and Whites to rearrange due to an “unprecedented” injury crisis – it was utterly laughable.
Granted, they had their fair share of personnel missing. I was in the tunnel at AJ Stadium last Sunday and it was more like a scene from M*A*S*H judging by the various types of walking wounded wandering in and out of their dressing room.
However, Salford also had four players suspended and a number of those injured then did appear last night when the game did, predictably, go ahead.
What galls me is why Salford bothered doing it? What did they think Hull would do? Say ‘yes, come back when you are all fit and well.’
Hull were second bottom of the table at the time and relegation is, let’s remember, part of Super League life nowadays.
But, for all Salford had issues, and they claimed to have 14 or more players out for one reason or another, they had plenty of options.
Some people argued their Academy players were too young, raw and fragile to be thrown into Super League yet many of them are full-time players and the club runs an Under 19s side that competes against other top-flight rivals. Furthermore, Salford coach Iestyn Harris took 18-year-old Ollie Gildart on loan from Wigan Warriors last week and the centre was one of his best players as he made an impressive Super League debut in the narrow defeat to Castleford.
If Wigan’s kids are good enough, surely Salford should have some faith in their own.
And, if not, Marwan Koukash has not been afraid to splash the cash before on big-name recruits so I’m sure he could dip his hand into his pocket for some more modest emergency loan deals to see them through.
Instead, they talked about bringing 38-year-old assistant coach Ian Watson out of retirement and former Great Britain centre Martin Gleeson - their Under 19s coach - who packed in last season.
What sort of message does that send out to those kids? That said, typically, neither actually made a 19-man squad list and Salford pushed on through.
They had more internationals on show last night than Hull FC did and their teamsheet didn’t look too bad at all.
It all left a sour taste as there was no need for the histrionics and it didn’t look good for the sport either that a team would dare to think it could get a match called off for such lame reasons. People often say rugby league doesn’t take itself seriously enough and this was a prime example.
One positive, though, is that it has raised the debate once more about the need for a Reserve Grade competition to return to help blood such youngsters and act as a more reliable way of bringing them through than the unpredictable nature of dual-registration deals with Championship and League One clubs.
That is something which should really be addressed but, unfortunately, it comes down to money and many simply don’t have much. Unlike the Doctor.