THE PREVIEW: SALFORD RED DEVILS VS SWINTON LIONS
11 January 2019
Swinton Lions travel to Salford Red Devils in the first of three pre-season fixtures, before travelling to Sheffield Eagles in the opening round of the Betfred Championship campaign.
Swinton Lions will start their 2019 journey on the road, making the short trip to the AJ Bell Stadium to face Super League side Salford Red Devils.
Stuart Littler’s side have worked hard during the pre-season, including the live training session at the 2019 Season Launch, where the Head Coach exclusively revealed the squad numbers for the upcoming campaign.
The side also trained hard with Ashton Bears, in a season leadership and team building camp at Bear Park, and will return to the field for the first time of the year at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Swinton were involved in the 2018 Play-Off against League One outfit Workington Town, in which the Lions secured their Championship status and now look onto a new era, led by freshly-appointed captain Rhodri Lloyd.
Welsh international, Lloyd enters his fourth season with the Lions since joining from Super League side Wigan Warriors, and will lead the team alongside vice-captain Will Hope. Mike Butt, Luke Waterworth, Kyle Shelford and Ben Austin round off the leadership group in the Lions squad for the 2019 campaign.
The majority of the new signings are set to make their debut this weekend, with Oscar Thomas set to partner Rob Fairclough for the first time in the halves.
Salford finished the 2018 Super League season outside the top eight, but finished on top of the Qualifiers table, winning five of their seven fixtures.
Former Swinton Lions player, Ian Watson has strengthened his side for 2019 with the signings of NRL winger Ken Sio, and the permanent contract of talented halfback Jackson Hastings.
Likewise, the Lions are Salford’s first pre-season fixture, before hosting Super League Champions Wigan Warriors.
Swinton and Salford have rich history, dating back to 1880. Here’s how the results have looked so far, not including friendlies…
Stuart Littler spoke to LionsTV’s Colin James during the week’s training in build-up to the friendly fixture against Salford.
“I’m looking forward to this weekend. It’s going to be a tough ask against a Super League full-time team who are a very good side and play some nice football. However, it’s about us and running our systems and giving everyone an opportunity to show what they’re about. We’ve got some new boys on show who want to test themselves against Super League players and we’ve got some new boys playing in new systems and we need to make sure they know how we want them to play. It’s all about getting ready for three-weeks time against Sheffield away and I can have a look at what is working.
“We’ve got numbers and we’ve got people on the park. There was a few times last year where we only had 18 or 19 and that 19 picked itself and only one lad missed out, but now we have competition. The only way a guy gets better is to put competition on him. It puts them on the spot and they have to perform. We have a good group, everyone has been working really hard and we’ve got an honest group. We’ve tried to improve the culture, the standards in the team and the leadership team we’ve just selected will drive this club forward.
“Hopefully we’ve picked the right team who can drive us forward and it’s all about progression each year. We’ve got to progress from last year, we don’t want to be in the position we were in. It was the longest season of my life, but we managed to stay up and that’s gone. It’s a new year, new beginnings and a new Swinton Lions.”
All-but-two have been named by Stuart Littler, with young centre Joe Digby and second-rower Kyle Shelford ruled out through injury.
LIONS SQUAD TO FACE SALFORD: Harry Aaronson, Matty Ashton, Ben Austin, Gavin Bennion, Billy Brickhill, Mike Butt, Rob Fairclough, Ryan Gray, Aaron Hall, Jack Hansen, Frankie Halton, Lewis Hatton, Will Hope, Adam Jones, Paddy Jones, Jose Kenga, Rhodri Lloyd, Oscar Thomas, Mike Ratu, Luke Waterworth, Ashley Warne, Daley Williams, Chris Worrall.
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