Super League Grand Final preview: St Helens vs Salford Red Devils

The Super League Trophy- Credit Joshua Flew

There is a “real positive vibe” around Salford Red Devils as they head into tomorrow’s Super League Grand Final showdown against St Helens.

That’s according to Emma Butler, the Reds media manager, who says the club has never been in better shape.

Salford take on Saints at Old Trafford in front of an expected 75,000 sell out crowd in the finale of the rugby league season.

And speaking to Uclan Live Butler said: “It’s a huge game for Salford, because it’ll be the first time we’ve reached the Grand Final in the Super League era.

“There’s a real positive vibe around the club at the moment and the players and backroom staff are all working so hard to stay focused and achieve what we want to achieve.

“It’ll be a tough game but I believe we’ve got just the same chance as anyone else to win the Super League trophy tomorrow.”

Salford Red Devils are looking to become only the fifth ever winners of the Super League Grand Final, since its inception in 1998, when they face St Helens tomorrow evening, in their Grand Final debut.

Saints are looking to win the Grand Final for the first time in five years, since they beat Wigan Warriors 14-6 in 2014.

Salford have been underdogs throughout this campaign, with many people tipping the Red Devils for relegation before the season started.

A regular start to the season left Salford as play-off outsiders, but an eight game winning run from July 12 to September 20 fired them into third place.

Salford have defied all the odds, finishing third in the regular season, and beating last season’s Grand Final winners Wigan Warriors last week to progress to the Grand Final.

The Reds will be losing four key players after the game with Jackson Hastings and Jake Bibby joining Wigan Warriors, George Griffin will be joining Castleford Tigers and Josh Jones is off to Hull FC.

Red Devils coach Ian Watson says that he will be preparing for the game, just like any other.

He said: “We’ll keep it exactly the same, no need to dress it up or make it any bigger than it is.

“We’ve got some guys who’ve been to Grand Finals before and some who haven’t as well, so what we want is a nice level playing field all week, where everyone prepares the same as they do for most games.”

Ian Watson
Credit: Fleets, Wikimedia Commons

He knows that playing in front of 75,000 fans at Old Trafford will be a special occasion for the fans, but that can’t affect the players.

Watson said: “It will be amazing, the atmosphere, but we can’t get caught up in that. We’re coming here to work and make sure we get the job done.”

St Helens have been dominant this year, losing just three games in the regular season, two of which strangely enough were against the relegated London Broncos.

Saints finished top of the Super League with 52 points, finishing a record breaking 16 points clear of Wigan Warriors in second place, who they then beat 40-10 in the Super League semi-final.

Tomorrow’s game will be a farewell for Saints coach Justin Holbrook, who will be ending his stint in England and heading home to Australia to coach the Gold Coast Titans in the NRL.

Holbrook will be replaced by fellow Australian Kristian Wolf, who signed a two-year contact to take over the club, leaving his post as Tonga coach after five years.

Speaking ahead of the big game, Holbrook says he can’t let the emotion of leaving Saints affect his preparation for the game.

He said: “For me, all that will happen after the game. I’m focused on making sure we’re right again and that the boys perform as well as they can during the game.

“I am an emotional person, but I’m not letting that affect me at all.

“I want to be saying goodbye to the fans on Saturday night holding the Super League trophy.”

St Helens are 1/4 favourites heading into the game, with Salford 3/1 outsiders.