Rugby League: Salford win in import game

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The Australian imports into the British game this year are, to put it politely, a mixed bunch. The glorified job-creation scheme that obliges Super League to find work somewhere in the world for the surplus players it signed last year will result in some very ordinary names plying their trade here this season.

All credit, therefore, to newly promoted Salford for signing the one newcomer of indisputable quality - John Cart- wright, who makes his competitive debut for them in the Silk Cut Challenge Cup fourth-round tie at Castleford this afternoon.

Cartwright has always stood out in Australia as a player of exceptional ball-skills. As big and strong as any contemporary second-row, he has the extra attribute of being able to slip an exquisite pass out of the tackle. We still tend to regard that as an English skill, and Cartwright himself has always felt that he would fit in well here. So, when 12 years with Penrith started to feel like too much of a good thing, Britain was calling. But bigger and wealthier clubs than Salford were keen to have the Test forward in their side.

"I was very impressed with the way that Andy Gregory approached me," Cartwright says. "And when Salford signed Andy Platt, that was a big factor in me making my decision."

With Platt and Cartwright, Salford hope to transform their pack from one capable of trampling on first division opposition into one which can compete in Super League. This afternoon will be a good indication of how far they will succeed, but the combination of Cartwright's clever handling and Platt's power should trouble better sides than Castleford. Having said that, Cas could turn out to have recruited better than most.

They have two Australians making their debuts today and both are a cut above most of the displaced persons lobbing up on these shores. Adrian Vowles is a play-making stand-off of a type that Castleford have lacked for some time, while Jason Lidden is a hard-working back-rower. However, the new buzz at Salford could mean that Cas will be the one Super League club to go out of the cup today.