After a sensational 2019 Super League season, the Salford Red Devils have become just the eighth different team to appear in a Super League Grand Final since its inception in 1998. The Red Devils were a 150-1 shot at the beginning of the campaign but are now just 80 minutes away from re-writing the history books. Here are five reasons why Salford can upset the odds once again.
Having Super League’s newly-crowned Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel winner Jackson Hastings in their side should be enough to give any Salford fan hope that the Red Devils can claim their maiden Super League title. The Australian, playing in his last game for the club before joining Wigan Warriors next season, has been nothing short of phenomenal this year and will want to leave the club that has helped revive his career on the highest possible note. With an astounding 36 try assists, some 14 ahead of nearest rival Lachlan Coote, the 23-year-old is capable of winning any game all by himself, even the Super League Grand Final.
All the Pressure is on Saints
Salford have surprised everybody with their impressive performances in 2019 and have already achieved success by simply reaching this year’s Grand Final. They should be heading into Saturday’s clash with little pressure on their shoulders compared to that of their opponents St Helens. Saints were beaten in the semi-finals last season before losing this year’s Challenge Cup final, both to Warrington Wolves, and are the heavy favourites to win a first Super League title since 2014. With all the pressure on Saints’ shoulders, Salford should be able to play with the freedom that has seen them upset Rugby League’s establishment this year.
Their Squad has Grand Final Experience
In a squad with little Grand Final experience, Salford do have players who know how to win at Old Trafford. Props Lee Mossop and Gil Dudson both started in Wigan Warriors 30-16 win against Warrington back in 2013, whilst departing second row Josh Jones, who has signed for Hull FC ahead of the 2020 campaign, and Mark Flanagan, who started the game at scrum-half, started in Saints’ most recent Grand Final triumph against Wigan the following season. Salford may only have four players with that all-important Old Trafford experience in their squad, but that could prove crucial when the whistle sounds at six o’clock on Saturday evening.
Despite losing assistant coach Martin Gleeson to rugby union side Wasps in June, Salford coach Ian Watson has continued to mastermind Salford’s rise up the Super League table which culminates in English rugby league’s biggest fixture on Saturday evening. The 42-year-old was appointed as the Red Devils interim head coach in late 2015, replacing the outgoing Iestyn Harris, before being given the job on a permanent basis the following year. Having worked with both Tony Smith and Tim Sheens in his fledgling coaching career, Watson is now one of the sport’s most sought-after coaches and can cement his legacy at Salford with a win this weekend.
They say you have to have played in a Grand Final before you can win a Grand Final but try telling that to a Warrington fan. The Red Devils would become just the fifth different winner of the competition, should they claim victory on Saturday night, and claim their first major honour since winning their last top-flight title in 1975/76. Whilst the history books suggest that winning your first Grand Final is no easy feat, this is Salford’s best chance of claiming silverware in more than 40 years. With some beginner’s luck, the Red Devils will hope to defeat a side making their 11th appearance at Old Trafford.