Rugby Union: Harvey sparks Reds revolution

hears life is about to change for good in Salford
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The Independent Online
FOR TWO clubs struggling in the lower reaches of Super League, the task of rescuing their seasons falls into new hands.

The new Salford Reds coach, John Harvey, has been champing on the bit in Australia since being appointed last month. Work permit duly stamped, he arrived this week and takes charge for the first time against Wakefield Trinity today.

Harvey has played and coached at the highest level in Australia, but he has been plucked from the obscurity of country football for this job. His new chairman, John Wilkinson, says he is convinced he has got the right man - but he has only appointed him until September, which does not smack of an overwhelming sense of certainty.

Harvey appears to have no complaints about the arrangement. "It's all performance based. If we show we can do the job, we get the opportunity to stay. If we don't we won't," he said. "It's fair enough as far as I'm concerned. Success for me will be getting a contract for next season. That will show that I've done a good job this season."

Harvey is making no secret of the area in which he will seek an immediate improvement. He watched the tape of Salford's last game, a 48-0 defeat at league leaders St Helens, with something close to horror. "I think they had spiders on them, the St Helens blokes, because we didn't want to touch them. We've got to get a bit of discipline in defence. I want to be here next year and the year after. If they want to do the same, they've got to start playing."

Darren Brown, the Salford player who knows Harvey best, says that emphasis is a fair reflection of the way he operates. "He won't take any rubbish from anyone," he said. "He's already shown us where we have to improve. If we don't, there will be changes. It's as simple as that."

It was, in the end, as simple as that for Dan Stains as well. Few coaches have had such a meteoric rise and fall as the London Broncos boss, deposed this week after a club record 74-12 defeat at Bradford.

Like Harvey, Stains arrived from relative obscurity, in his case coaching the reserve grade side at Balmain. The initial impression he made was entirely positive. Observers reckoned the Broncos' pre-season training had never been better and the benefit was seen when London reached their first ever Challenge Cup final.

It was, with hindsight, that afternoon at Wembley where it all started to go wrong. The Broncos' injury-weakened side could not live with Leeds for 80 minutes and went down to a record final defeat.

Since then, they have won just one Super League match - by a single, late point at Huddersfield last week - and Stains' relations with his captain, Shaun Edwards, reached a well-publicised nadir which saw Britain's most successful player barred from training.

The club's chief executive, Tony Rea, who with Stains's assistant, Les Kiss, will coach the side for at least the rest of this season, says that results are only part of the reason for the change. "We sensed that the communication wasn't getting through. It just wasn't clicking," Rea says.

Stains' insistence on seeing everything in a positive light - the product of his strong religious belief - seemed refreshing at the start, but began to grate over the last few weeks. And, if it does that with bystanders, there's a good chance it is doing so with the players.

Rea and Kiss take over the controls against Sheffield Eagles today. There is every likelihood that Martin Offiah will return and even Edwards could be brought back into the fold over the next couple of weeks. For all of them, as at Salford, the time for a fresh start is now.

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