Harrison fears dangers of life in the new jungle

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Karl Harrison knows that there will be times this season when he wishes that he was steaming and starving somewhere in the Australian rainforest, contemplating tucking into a witchety grub.

The Salford coach was close to agreeing to be one of the contestants in I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, eventually turning down the big, cuddly bloke role that went to Neil "Razor" Ruddock. "In the end, I just couldn't make the logistics of it fit in, not with pre-season training to think about," he said. "In a way, I'm bound to regret it, but I'm about twice the size of Razor and, if he was hungry, I'd have been bloody famished."

Harrison's focus now is on ensuring that his newly promoted side extract enough nourishment from the early weeks of the Super League season, and he is frank about his worries. "I'm really, really concerned about the pace of Super League in the first six weeks," he said. "We have to work out how to play the game at this level."

Salford's first chance to do so is at The Willows this afternoon against Widnes, another side widely expected to struggle this season. Neil Kelly's men did remarkably well when they were promoted themselves two years ago, but they lost some of that impetus last year and most of the signs over the close season have been bad.

Unlike Harrison, Widnes did go to Australia this winter, for a training camp, the World Sevens in Sydney and a pre-season friendly. Not only did they lose all their matches, but the trip was also notable for a new rash of headlines concerning the off-field behaviour of Australian rugby league's favourite prodigal son, Julian O'Neill.

O'Neill came to England partly to escape the scrutiny of an Australian media enthralled with what he might do when he gets a glass in his hand. They got their story when the organisers of a boat trip accused him of trying to set fire to a boy in a dolphin suit - something O'Neill and the club deny. "His behaviour wasn't the best, but it has been exaggerated," said Kelly. "The thing that amazed me was that everyone was waiting for him to put a foot wrong."

Whoever loses today will have put the first foot wrong in what could be a survival battle between the two clubs. In seven months, one or other of them could be saying: "We're a National League club, get us out of here."