Super League XVIII kicked off on Friday 1st February, and for this reporter this meant taking a trip to see the Cherry and Whites play at Salford City Stadium. Anticipation was high, following talk from Salford City Reds’ millionaire new owner of turning the club into a Super League superpower and Wigan Warriors narrowly missing out on a place in last year’s Grand Final.
The bailout of Salford City Reds by Dr Marwan Koukash was a welcome relief to fans following the failure to secure a loan from the local council. The club faced administration at the end of last season until the successful racehorse owner stepped in, with high hopes of bringing silverware home.
Salford were no match for Wigan, conceding no points in an eight-try romp. A final score of 0-42 saw Man of Steel Sam Tomkins score a hat trick, and Ireland international Pat Richards put injury woes behind him to notch 14 points to his personal tally.
The ground itself, located near Eccles, is shared between the League club and Union’s Sale Sharks. Salford City Stadium is certainly a step up from the old Willows ground, with a 12,000 capacity that can be extended to 20,000. This is likely to come in handy when hosting the Rugby League Wold Cup Scotland vs USA match in November this year. It’s not an easy one for fans to get to however, especially when you find that the accident-prone A57 has been closed when you try to leave, as happened on 1st February.
The away end, North Stand, has a capacity for 2,500, but Warriors fans quickly spilled out in to East Stand in comparison to a subdued Salford crowd. It was a quiet atmosphere, certainly missing the benefits of the large TV screen brought by Sky. With no fanfare of music or even announcements throughout the match, it was easier to find out what was happening on Twitter.
The novelty of being able to take alcohol on to the terraces was a nice change from the restrictions at football grounds, and it was nice to see prices weren’t extortionate. Pint and a pie for £6? Bargain!
The one thing I couldn’t understand was the new kit for the officials – they wore a pink and blue chequered shirt that blended in with the players’ colours. Sort it out ref!
2013 looks set to be a good year for Rugby League, culminating in the World Cup. Tickets are up for sale already, and matches are being spread throughout England, Ireland, Wales and France, with the final being held at Old Trafford. Reigning champions New Zealand will play their first match vs Samoa at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington, with tickets starting as low as £5.