Matt Parish has made the retention of Stefan Ratchford one of his first priorities as the new Salford coach.
Parish watched his new team lose 52-16 at Hull on Friday night and has taken charge of training for the first time this week. Even before that, however, he had two conversations with Ratchford – one over the phone and one face-to-face – about his future plans.
The versatile back is out of contract at the end of the season and is known to be wanted by Warrington and Wigan, both of whom are in a position to offer him a better deal than Salford can manage. Despite that, the new coach is confident that he can persuade him to re-sign with his only professional club.
"His indication to me was that he was going to stay," said Parish. "I'd be very disappointed if he was to leave after that, but if he does, he does. He's a good player, a talent, but it's not the be-all and end-all for this club that he stays."
Parish, an assistant coach with New South Wales in the State of Origin series that ended last week, has succeeded Phil Veivers, who had been caretaker-coach since Shaun McRae was taken ill early in the season. Veivers is staying on as No 2. "He has been doing a fantastic job," Parish said.
Parish also been quick to tell senior players what he expects of them. In a nutshell, that they need to contribute more than they have been. Salford still have a possible play-off place in their sights in their last season before leaving The Willows, but Parish declines to look any further ahead than his first match in charge, at Hull KR on Sunday.
"Everyone wants to be in the play-offs, but all I know is that we've got a game this weekend and, if we lose that, the play-offs will look a long way off," he said. "I want us to be a hard team that people won't like playing."
Parish, a former Balmain player and the son of the Test full-back Don Parish, was recruited by a Salford delegation last month. "He was the last candidate we interviewed and we were all unanimous that he had something special to offer this club," said Salford's chairman, John Wilkinson.
Wigan have signed Ben Cross, the prop forward discarded by Leeds, for the rest of the season. The former Newcastle Knights front-rower joined the Rhinos at the start of the year, but was released last month after surprisingly failing to make an impact.
He has simultaneously committed himself to join the Super League newcomers, Widnes, next season, along with Crusaders' Hep Cahill.
The New Zealand forward, Louie Anderson, has confirmed that he is leaving Warrington at the end of the season. He is to join the Catalan Dragons. Chris Flannery has signed on for a sixth season at St Helens.
Castleford's Rangi Chase has been suspended for two matches after being fiund guilty of punching.
George Carmont has shelved retirement plans to play one more season with Wigan. Hull KR's Ben Galea is also to play on for another season, but the club is releasing Shaun Briscoe, who is tipped to join Widnes.