Salford coach Paul Rowley insists his Super League surprise package are not a team of “misfits”.
The cash-strapped Red Devils operate with one of the lowest budgets in the game and Rowley’s squad is full of players who were discarded by their former clubs or written off as not Super League standard.
Eight of the 17 players who demolished Huddersfield 28-0 in the first round of the Super League play-offs on Saturday to reach the semi-finals were playing in the Championship not long ago while Tim Lafai and Brodie Croft have enjoyed a new lease of life after their careers had stalled in the NRL.
Both overseas players have enjoyed such a renaissance in their first seasons in Super League that they were named in the Dream Team and Croft is on a three-man shortlist for Man of Steel.
Asked if being written off had fuelled the motivation of his players, Rowley quipped: “Probably. Apparently Tim Lafai laid bricks all wonky and he got written off as a bricklayer, so we picked him up.
“Seriously, we’ve got a good team full of good players. Sometimes ‘written off’ isn’t always the right description.
“They could have just dipped in form or maybe had some injuries or in a salary cap sport it’s maybe one route that they’ve been forced to take.
“We definitely don’t feel like we’ve got a squad of misfits. We might be a little bit of a crazy gang at times but we’re not misfits.
Rowley hailed Salford’s ‘crazy gang’ spirit (Martin Rickett/PA)
“There are some talented individuals who take their trade very, very seriously and work tremendously hard. As a collective they come together to make a very good team.”
Salford’s reward for their impressive rout of the third-placed Giants is a trip to reigning champions St Helens in the last four next Saturday afternoon, while Wigan will host Leeds in the other semi-final on Friday night.
But Rowley will be without the talismanic Croft after he failed a head injury assessment.
Hooker or half-back Chris Atkin took over from Croft for the second half at the John Smith’s Stadium and is expected to start the game against Saints, although Rowley is keeping his cards close to his chest.
“Never assume but possibly,” he said.
Brodie Croft, right, suffered a head injury (Martin Rickett/PA)
Salford will travel to the Totally Wicked Stadium in confident mood following a 44-12 win over the champions at the AJ Bell Stadium in July but Rowley is playing down his team’s prospects.
“It would be ignorant to get carried away or start thinking too far ahead,” he said. “We’re going to the champions and we’re a massive underdog, it is as simple as that.”
Rowley is confident full-back Ryan Brierley will not face a charge by the Rugby Football League’s match review panel after being sin-binned for a shoulder charge off the ball in the first half of Saturday’s game against Huddersfield.
“I’d be unbelievably shocked if that is the case,” he said. “I’ve not seen any bans for obstruction this year.”