The former Wales international half-back will now take up a role with rivals Huddersfield Giants in 2021.
Watson is one of the game’s most highly-rated young coaches, having guided the Red Devils to a Super League Grand Final appearance in 2019 and then the Challenge Cup Final this year. Though both games ended in defeat, Watson’s side overachieved by reaching the last two in each competition.
More broadly speaking, the young coach has earned plenty of admirers for his work with a Salford squad that has been assembled at a budget. His side plays an attractive brand of footy and his recent track record of bringing the best out of players is unquestionable.
His decision to leave Salford has not been well received by the club, who expressed their “surprise and disappointment”, particularly after Watson had previously pledged his future. A number of fans have also reacted angrily to the news.
This speaks volumes of how missed Watson will be by Salford, but can he continue his development as a coach with Huddersfield and turn the Giants into genuine Super League title challengers?
📋 Club statement.
Ian Watson has parted company with Salford Red Devils.
Salford Red Devils would like to thank him for his contribution to the Club throughout his tenure.
— Salford Red Devils (@SalfordDevils) November 9, 2020
The nearly men
Though they have also appeared in two Challenge Cup Finals, Huddersfield’s biggest success of the modern era came in 2013, when they lifted the League Leaders Shield as regular season winners.
However, the club was unable to turn their positive form into Grand Final glory and, despite several play-off appearances since then, major silverware has continued to elude the club.
Alongside the likes of Hull FC, Warrington, Castleford, and Catalans, Huddersfield are one of several Super League clubs who’ve come close to winning the UK’s major club prize but fallen just short. The Giants failed to make this year’s play-offs, though Hull and Catalans remain in the running for glory in the latest rugby league betting markets. It remains to be seen whether Watson can turn his new team into Super League title challengers, but it’s certainly going to be interesting to watch.
Money to spend
One of the big attractions for Watson at Huddersfield will undoubtedly be the budget available for players. Previously he was forced to assemble a squad on a shoestring budget at the Red Devils, and regularly saw his best players snapped up at the end of each season. Now, the young coach will be afforded the opportunity to sign and retain a higher calibre of player.
The Giants brought in former NRL Grand Final winner Aidan Sezer for 2020, and the half-back has made a big impact in the claret and gold of Huddersfield. The squad, in general, boasts a good combination of star power, experience, and young promise.
Watson will undoubtedly be given the chance to add to his options ahead of 2021 and it’d be no surprise to see him raid his former club for talent. Although the net may also be cast wider, with Huddersfield showing little hesitation in importing players from the NRL in recent years.
— NRL (@NRL) November 28, 2019
In a mega-competitive competition, Watson will undoubtedly have his work cut out in turning Huddersfield into Grand Final winners. But, as he has proven during his time with Salford, he is a coach who is absolutely capable of getting the most out of his players.