Super League: Nathan Brown calls for more investors in the Marwan Koukash mould
Last Updated: 26/02/14 1:32pm
Marwan Koukash: Could take Super League forward according to Nathan Brown
St Helens head coach Nathan Brown believes Salford Red Devils will pose a much sterner challenge following the arrival of big-spending owner Marwan Koukash, whom he believes is a breath of fresh air for rugby league.
The Saints travel to the AJ Bell Stadium on Thursday having beaten Salford 52-10 in the corresponding fixture last season, but Brown expects a very different story this time round.
Since enduring the 42-point defeat in June, there have been a raft of changes in Salford following Koukash's entrance, including a change of name and 14 new signings.
Following Wigan Warriors' 36-14 defeat to Sydney Roosters in the World Club Challenge, Brown believes more wealthy investors would enable the Super League to compete with the Australian-based NRL, where clubs have the benefit of a higher salary cap.
"I think what's happened there has been great for the game," Brown claimed. "This game in particular in the past could have been seen as a standard St Helens win I suppose.
"It's a good rugby league story which is good for the game and the competition.
"Wigan did well against the Roosters but, if they played more games against sides spending the cap, then the comp would be better and they probably would have been more prepared. There's certainly no negative to Salford."
Two players Koukash recruited in the summer were former Saints Tony Puletua and Francis Meli, who join former team-mates Andrew Dixon, Matty Ashurst and Martin Gleeson at Salford and Brown admits he is looking forward to seeing his old guard.
"It will be good to see Tony Puletua and Francis Meli," he added. "They have no points to prove to us though. They were more than welcome to stay at the club but their budget is what it is and we have younger players coming through.
"Franny and TP served the club well and Franny in particular has left a legacy with Josh Jones, Mark Percival, Tommy Makinson and Adam Swift."
"I think what's happened there has been great for the game. It's a good rugby league story which is good for the game and the competition."
Salford could reach the Super League summit for the first time in the club's history when they host St Helens on Thursday night.
Last year's rock-bottom club are enjoying their best start to a Super League season since 1997, their first in the top flight when they won their first five games under Andy Gregory but remained below Bradford on points difference before falling away.
St Helens have won 29 of the 33 Super League meetings between the clubs, with Salford's last home victory being a 42-34 triumph at The Willows in May 2010.
Opening wins over Wakefield and London Broncos have allowed the Red Devils to gather momentum but knowing Salford's last home triumph over the Saints being a 42-34 win at The Willows in 2010, Noble understands they face a sterner challenge in Round 3.
Devil or Saint
"We're looking forward to it," Noble said. "It's got the strap line, hasn't it, the Devil against the Saint?
"We're still very new but the tough couple of games we've had will stand us in really good stead.
"In many people's opinions, this is our first real test and I probably don't disagree, with no disrespect to Wakefield and London. We've a heck of a lot improvement in us.
Brian Noble: Thumbs up with owner Marwan Koukash
"You won't really get a true indication of where you're at until round 11 or 12 but we're working feverishly hard to make sure we're up to speed quicker than then."
Salford will be without new-signings Rangi Chase and Junior Sa'u, who remain sidelined, as well as front rower Darrell Griffin who damaged knee ligaments in the win at London.
"We've had a little bit of disruption early on with injuries but we've got a good team going out on Thursday and we want a good performance," Noble added.
"St Helens are playing really well at the moment so we're going to have to be really good to get close.
"The injection of [Luke] Walsh into the halves has given them a bit more direction and allowed other people to perform their roles."