Watson: It's not really a salary cap
Ian Watson says the gulf in spending between Salford and Wigan makes the salary cap 'not a salary cap.'
The Warriors spend up to the £1.9m limit on players’ wages, and make the most of various provisions including having two marquee players, to take their annual bill to a cool £2.2m – thought to be the highest in Super League.
By contrast, Salford – under new ownership following the departure of millionaire racehorse owner Marwan Koukash – are spending significantly less.
And Watson sees Friday’s opener as a test of his wits as a coach... and his ability to pick up some bargain recruit.
He said: “The salary cap is not really a salary cap if one team is playing at £2.2m, and you’re playing at less than that.
“It makes it interesting as well, but Wigan have to spend that to keep the likes of George Williams and Sam Tomkins over here, we prefer them to be in our competition than being somewhere else – we want rugby league to be a force, and we do that by having our best players here and generating more interest.
“So I do see the bigger picture on that.
“What it will show us is that our recruitment has hopefully been right on the back end of last season.
“We’ve obviously not be able to spend what Wigan spent, but on what we’ve spent as well, hopefully we can show that we’ve recruited the right guys and the right kind of quality in the right areas.”
Salford sold powerful forward Ben Murdoch-Masila to Warrington in the off-season but have fended off interest from Hull KR in Australian stand-off Robert Lui.
They have also brought in Australian halfback Jack Littlejohn, to help cover for the loss of Michael Dobson and Todd Carney at the end of last season.
Warriors opened last season at Salford as well, winning 26-16 just a week before the World Club Challenge. And with a trip Down Under on the horizon, this fixture has echoes of last year.
“It’s a good one for us again,” said Watson. “I like having a tough team straight away because it really beds you in, and makes you really up for the season.
“You’ve got to be on your metal when you are playing against a Wigan team, especially a Wigan team who had quite a lot of guys who have not been in the World Cup this year, and spent some time at home, like Sam Tomkins and Liam Farrell, so it will be an interesting first game for us.”
Kick-off on Friday is 7.30pm.