2017 was George Griffin’s third with the Salford Red Devils and we’re going to take a look his past season in our latest instalment of our player season reviews.
Griffin was another constant in Ian Watson’s Salford side this past season and appeared in each of the Red Devils opening twelve games in all competitions. The second-rower crossed for four tries in the 2017 season and unusually they all came within a six-game period throughout March and early April.
The forward opened his account for the season in the sides first home victory of the season against Warrington. Griffin made it back-to-back try-scoring appearances a week later in a narrow defeat to one of his former sides – Wakefield Trinity.
As Salford’s fantastic attacking displays continued so did Griffin’s try-scoring as he powered his way over in a heavy defeat of Widnes before crossing for a try in another dominant performance at the KC Stadium against Hull FC.
Ian Watson began to use the 25-year-old’s impact from the interchange bench throughout the latter stages of the regular season after missing a handful of games in May. Griffin’s hard-work and grit in the middle of the park was pivotal for the Red Devils with the back-row making more marker tackles than any other Red Devil this season.
Griffin featured in Salford’s first Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final for twenty years coming on from the bench before playing in six of the Red Devils seven Super 8s games. George has made 76 appearances for Salford since arriving in 2015 and will hit 100 if he makes the same amount of appearances next season.
George Griffin was sponsored by SuperJosh throughout the 2017 season.
George Griffin’s 2017 Stats (All competitions)
Fact: George Griffin made more tackles from marker than any other Red Devil in 2017; 19 more than 2nd place Craig Kopczak.
George Griffin’s 2017 in pictures (All pictures provided by Steve McCormick)
We’ve got another player review this evening for you and next up is a player who missed just a handful of games in 2017 – Logan Tomkins.
Tomkins arrived from Wigan Warriors in 2016 after a successful stint on loan at the AJ Bell Stadium and his consistent performances were on show again last season. Logan’s hard-hitting style of play complimented new hooker Kris Brining extremely well and saw the Red Devils prosper in 2017.
The 25-year-old missed the opening game against his former side but then went on to start the next 14 Super League games for the Red Devils. Tomkins only crossed for one try this season but it came early in the season in a narrow defeat at Headingley against Leeds Rhinos.
While Tomkins’ try-scoring wasn’t prolific his defensive efforts were a massive part of Salford’s success this season as Logan made the 2nd most Super League tackles of any Red Devil behind only Craig Kopczak. Tomkins also made more tackles than any other player in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final defeat against Wigan.
Tomkins’ tireless work-rate and steely defence was recognised at the End of Season awards where he picked up the ‘off-the-ball’ award which was designed to reward the player for the work that many let go unnoticed.
Logan is set to enter his third season with the Red Devils in 2018 and is just seven appearances from hitting 100. Tomkins will be another pivotal cog in Ian Watson’s Salford machine next season and will guide the Red Devils around the field as he did so well in 2017.
Logan Tomkins was sponsored by Dr Terry Thorne throughout the 2017 season.
Logan Tomkins’ 2017 Stats (All competitions)
Fact: There is only Junior Sa’u in the current Salford squad who has more appearances than Logan Tomkins.
Logan Tomkins’ 2017 in pictures (All images provided by Steve McCormick & SWPix)
We’ve got another 2017 season review for you and today marks our first forward as Craig Kopczak takes centre stage.
Kopczak joined the Red Devils back in 2016 and his commitment and work ethic have seen him grow into a firm favourite amongst the Salford faithful.
The Welsh international was a regular feature in the Salford side throughout last season and didn’t miss a game up until Castleford in July – the penultimate regular season Super League fixture. Despite starting the opening three games of the season Kopczak often found himself entering as an impact interchange in the middle months of the season.
And, he certainly made an impact from the bench in the Red Devils visit to the KCOM Stadium in early April. The former Bradford and Huddersfield forward came on from the bench to grab two tries in a memorable 18-54 win. Koppy was too much for the FC defence as he ploughed his way through on two occasions making him just one of two forwards to score a double for Salford this season.
Kopczak played a pivotal role in Salford’s run to the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final featuring in all four cup games and crashing over for tries against both Hull Kingston Rovers and Wakefield. In fact, Trinity must have hated coming up against the Welsh forward in 2017 as Koppy crashed over for a try in three of the four meetings between the sides.
Craig’s powerful running and hard-work saw him make more Super League metres than any other Red Devils forward. Kopczak was the fourth highest metre-maker for Salford behind Kris Welham, Greg Johnson and Junior Sa’u.
Koppy’s performances throughout 2017 were that impressive he has been named as captain of the Welsh Rugby League team for the Rugby League World Cup which begins at the end of October.
Craig Kopczak was sponsored by Jones & Brooks throughout the 2017 season.
Craig Kopczak 2017 Stats (All competitions)
Fact: Craig Kopczak made more metres than any other Red Devils forward in 2017.
Craig Kopczak’s 2017 in pictures
After another phenomenal season with the Salford Red Devils Rob Lui was named as the Club’s Player of the Season for 2017 and here is his season review.
The Salford half-back missed just two games all season with his first unfortunately being the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final defeat against Wigan Warriors. The Australian started 20 of the Red Devils opening 21 games of the season.
Lui was instrumental in Salford’s run of 12 wins from 13 games between March and May with only loss in this spell coming against Catalans away – a game in which Lui started on the bench. The half-back crossed for three tries in this spell against Widnes, Hull FC and the Dragons at home.
However, it was the 27-year-old’s creative spark which saw the Red Devils remain in touching distance with league leaders Castleford for almost three months of the 2017 season. Lui racked up a staggering 23 Super League try-assists in 2017; the third most in the league behind George Williams and Danny McGuire. The Australian’s kicking game was pivotal to Salford’s attacking threat as well as his lethal partnership with Ben Murdoch-Masila.
Lui scored back-to-back tries against St Helens and Huddersfield in the closing weeks of Super League but struggled with an injury in games against Castleford and Leigh which meant Lui was ruled out of the Challenge Cup semi-final. However, he did make a try-scoring return in Salford’s first ever Super League Super 8s game against Hull FC at the KCOM Stadium before featuring in five of the Red Devils final six games of the season.
Rob’s performances were that impressive throughout 2017 that Head Coach Ian Watson selected him as his Player of the Season and the Red Devils will certainly be hoping he can display his attacking excellence again in 2018.
Robert Lui was sponsored by Resin Surfaces Limited throughout the 2017 season.
Rob Lui’s 2017 Stats (All competitions)
Fact: Rob Lui trailed only George Williams and Danny McGuire in terms of Super League try-assists leading the likes of Danny Brough, Marc Sneyd and Man of Steel Luke Gale.
Rob Lui’s 2017 in pictures
It’s time for a player review on our top try-scorer of 2017 – Niall Evalds.
Evalds has become a regular feature for the Red Devil’s in recent years but this year was his real breakout season with Evalds taking the Super League by storm with his speed, timing and footwork helping him cross for 15 tries in all competitions while playing in a variety of roles within the back line.
Niall’s first appearance of the season came at centre against Wigan in a 16-26 defeat on the opening weekend of the season. However, Evalds’ first game at full-back came in May against Wigan and what a performance the 24-year-old put in as he grabbed a brace in the Red Devils to their first win at Wigan for twenty years.
Evalds crossed for four more tries in May beginning at the Magic Weekend against Leigh before he also scored on the wing in a 50-12 battering of Catalans Dragons.
But, Evalds’ most memorable moment of the season surely came against Warrington in late May as the youngster scored a hat-trick at the Halliwell Jones Stadium; the Red Devils only hat-trick of the season. On the wing against the Wolves, Evalds’ three tries saw Salford race into a 32-6 lead over the 2016 Grand Finalists.
Despite losing in the Challenge Cup semi-final the breakout star enjoyed playing at the Halliwell Jones this season Evalds pulled off a magnificent last-ditch tackle on Joe Burgess to prevent Wigan going further ahead.
After making the number one spot his own heading into the Super 8s Evalds showed why scoring a terrific weaving try against Hull FC before also going over at the DW Stadium and in the Red Devils victory over Huddersfield.
There is no doubting Evalds will take his fine form in both attack and defence again in 2018 as he looks to continue to put his stamp down as one of the brightest young prospects in the Super League.
Niall Evalds was sponsored by The Dog and Patridge and Sounds of Salford throughout the 2017 season.
Niall Evalds’ 2017 Stats (All competitions)
Fact: Niall scored two braces and Salford’s only hat-trick all away from home in 2017.
Niall Evalds’ 2017 in pictures
The third in our series of 2017 player reviews is fan favourite Junior Sa’u who is one of the Red Devils longest-serving players at the moment and had yet another phenomenal season at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Sa’u’s season got off to a flying start as the former New Zealand international scored four tries in the opening four games of 2017. Junior crashed over for tries against Wigan and Huddersfield before grabbing a brace against Warrington in the Red Devils first home victory of the year.
The 30-year-old’s powerful running and steely defence has seen him become a cult hero at the AJ Bell Stadium and this was on display once again throughout 2017. Sau’s try-scoring feats continued as he notched one in a memorable 18-54 victory over Hull FC at the KCOM Stadium in April.
Sa’u crossed for a brace against Warrington in late May with his double helping extend Salford’s winning run to seven games in all competitions and 12 wins from 13 since mid-March. However, a dry spell followed for Sa’u and the Red Devils in June but another brace and a Man of the Match performance came Sa’u’s way in a 36-20 win over Huddersfield at the beginning of July.
The centre was named in Ian Watson’s side to take on Wigan in the Club’s first Challenge Cup semi-final for twenty years and was a standout performer. Junior unfortunately missed out on the first half of the Super 8s through injury but featured in the Red Devils last four games of the season including a dominant victory over Huddersfield at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Sa’u will continue be an integral player for the Red Devils both on and off the field in 2018.
Junior Sa’u was sponsored by Bullen Conservation and Masonry Specialists throughout the 2017 season.
Sa’u is also the proud ambassador for the Salford Red Devils Foundation partner Playkidds.
Junior Sa’u’s 2017 Stats (All competitions)
Fact: Junior Sa’u has more appearances than any other Red Devil in the current squad.
Junior Sa’u’s 2017 in pictures
Our second Red Devil to have their 2017 reviewed is Josh Jones a player who has performed in both the backs and forwards this season.
Jones spent much of the season in the second-row however injuries and positional changes meant the 24-year-old moved into the centre on occasion – a position he is accustomed to from his time with fellow Super League side St Helens.
The former Exeter Chiefs man didn’t take long to open his try-scoring account in 2017 with a brilliant solo effort against Huddersfield Giants in the Red Devils first away game of the season which won Salford the game. Jones managed to barge Giants forward Sam Rapira off not once but twice before dragging Kruise Leeming, Lee Gaskell and Sebastine Ikahihifo over the line.
While Jones only managed to cross three times last season – against Huddersfield away in the Super League and at home in the 8s against the Giants as well as at home to Catalans – his attacking threat isn’t to be understated. Jones was the Red Devils second highest metre-maker from the pack last season and was heads and shoulders above the rest of the squad in terms of offloads with 41 in Super League; 11 more than any other Salford player.
The versatile Red Devil will be heading into his third season with Salford in 2018 and will be looking to continue his impressive performances whether that be in the back-row or at centre.
Josh Jones was sponsored by Oakwood Engineering throughout the 2017 season.
Josh Jones’ 2017 stats (All competitions)
Fact: Josh Jones executed the most offloads of any Red Devil in 2017 and was the 11th most frequent in the Super League.
Josh Jones’ 2017 in pictures
Salford Red Devils full-back Gareth O’Brien couldn’t have come into the 2017 season on a bigger high than slotting that infamous one-pointer at the KCOM Craven Park to secure the Red Devils Super League status in the most dramatic of fashion.
O’Brien earned a regular place in the side for the majority of the year with O’Brien actually scoring points in 16 of his opening 17 appearances of the 2017 season. Despite a lot of his points coming from the boot O’Brien crossed for a brace at the John Smith’s Stadium to guide the Red Devils to their first victory of the season in February.
The full-backs most memorable moment of the season – to no surprise – came in the form of a late match-winning drop-goal as Salford became the first side to defeat eventual Grand Finalists Castleford. O’Brien calmly slotted over a one-pointer with two minutes remaining to seal a 13-12 win at the AJ Bell Stadium in mid-March.
Often O’Brien’s point scoring hauls were the difference for the Red Devils with his four goals against former side Warrington earning a win in March, his six points being the margin of victory at Leigh in April and his seven-point tally being the difference between the Red Devils and Toronto Wolfpack in Round Five of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
Towards the end of the regular season O’Brien and Niall Evalds both spent time at full-back with O’Brien wearing the number one shirt in wins over Leigh in Newcastle, Catalans, Warrington and Huddersfield.
O’Brien came on in the halves against Wigan in the Super 8s before making the stand-off position his own in the final three Super 8s games. A 52-14 victory against Huddersfield was the pick of his performances as the 25-year-old kicked eight goals and was involved in a handful of Salford’s eight tries.
The versatile drop-goal specialist will enter his third season with the Red Devils in 2018 and will be looking to hit the 400-point mark for Salford.
Gareth O’Brien was sponsored by Murray Metals throughout the 2017 season.
Gareth O’Brien’s 2017 Stats (All competitions)
Fact – Gareth O’Brien is currently the highest points scorer in the Salford Red Devils squad with 345 points.
Gareth O’Brien’s 2017 in pictures: