Salford City Reds Interim coach Alan Hunte says Easter fixture pile-up ‘unfair’ on players

By Mark Shales

The packed Easter schedule is unfair on players, says Salford City Reds interim boss Alan Hunte ahead of his side’s Good Friday showdown with Huddersfield Giants.

The Reds welcome the Super League-leaders to the Salford City Stadium having won just once in their opening eight games.

And with a trip to Bradford Bulls just three days later Hunte believes changes need to be made.

“It’s massively tough for the players,” he said. “We have a laugh and a joke about it that we never used to complain but it’s different now.

“The sport’s different – the athletes are different. The collisions and the pressures on the body are just too much for the Easter period.

“It’s really not fair on our athletes to expect them to play the volume of games at the intensity that we expect them to play and not come out with casualties.

“But it is what it is and the powers that be will make those decisions and until they do we’ve just good to put up with it, try and patch them up and send them out.”

The Reds sit bottom of Super League and remain the only side not to have chalked up 100 points so far this season, while conceding 279 – 154 more than the Giants.

Centre Martin Gleeson and winger Danny Williams are both missing – having picked up injuries in last week’s St Helens defeat – but England U-18 international Edwin Okanga-Ajwang could make his senior debut.

A number of coaches have spoken out against Good Friday and Easter Monday double-header over the years, and Hunte agrees that alternatives need to be looked at.

“There are 27 games in a season but I don’t see what the difference is how those games are spread,” he added.

“Could we start the season earlier? Well we played in a blizzard last week and it’s almost April, so summer rugby’s still not hit us. Could we play later? Maybe.

“They give us a schedule and we follow it, there’s no point complaining about it. It’s daft but it is what it is.”

Meanwhile, Salford City Reds captain Stephen Wild admits his side just need to get on with the hectic schedule – the Reds are due to play Huddersfield, Bradford and Widnes in the space of nine days.

The 31-year-old utility forward – now in his third season at Salford – admits the week is something his side have just got to grin and bear.

“We’ve just got to get it done and get the games out of the way,” he told MM.

“On the body it’s probably the hardest week of the season – you just don’t get time to recover.

“It’s probably the third game when players start breaking down but the players know it’s part of the fixtures and we just have to get on with it.

“It’s not the best thing to try to recover and then play a game a couple of days later but we know what’s coming.

The Wigan-born forward – who has represented both his country and his county – will lead out a weakened 13 when top-of-the table Huddersfield visit the Salford City Stadium on Friday.

Wild insists former England international Gleeson has been invaluable both on and off the pitch.

“He’s been a big plus for us,” he added. “He’s been in finals and played for his country.

“The players we’ve brought in have a lot of experience but we are still quite a young side.

“A lot of the younger boys are picking a lot up from Gleeson, so he’s making them better players, but he’s obviously playing well himself.

“If we could get a few more like Gleeson it can only help us.”

Image courtesy of SuperLeagueTV, via YouTube, with thanks

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