The memory of the last time that the Salford Red Devils travelled to Hull KR, in a Qualifiers match, two years ago, must be surely etched in the memory of every one of our fans as it was, of course, in the Million Pound Game.
When the players make their first return visit, in this competition on Friday there will be a number of those players who were involved on that day for whom the memory will be even more stark than our own personal ones as Head Coach Ian Watson readily acknowledges.
Watson said: “Games like that will always be there in the back of your memory, especially with that match having so much meaning to it, and, especially after the game itself having seen the fall out from it with people losing their jobs alongside other consequences. The emotions around all that ensure that those experiences stay with you for the rest of your life.
“So will they for players like Sean Lunt who not only was involved in the actual game but also witnessed and experienced first hand the after effects from the defeat.
“At least on this occasion it is not another Million Pound Game it’s more like a ‘mini-league’ game, which will probably enable everyone to put their thoughts to the back of their minds and as professionals we will approach it as a really serious contest.
“No-one wants to get off to a poor start by losing early games because that could lead directly to involvement in this year’s Million Pound Game but at the moment both sides will all be treating it as nothing more than a really tough match.”
“I always think it’s a good place to go to, though some players find it really intimidating. It is the sort of place that you should want to play in with the extremely loud crowd getting on your back. These things should actually spur you on by you turning them into positive elements.
“You know before you arrive exactly what you are going to get from the spectators on the terraces but out there on the pitch it is just your team against theirs and you should be keen and eager to get out there and challenge yourself.”
It is only a few weeks since the Red Devils last made the trip to KCOM Craven Park and Salford will be looking to avenge a disappointing defeat.
“It was the fact that we failed to show the necessary resilience after their second try from one of our kicks, that ultimately led to our problems, because up to that point we had been playing really well. We need to correct that and show that we have a bit of steel about us and can grind out a win away from home.
“What we learned from that game is that we have to have that attitude and mentality which determines that we will stick to our guns as a team – no matter what. What we don’t want is people doing their own thing to try and fix things up rather than doing so as a team because that just does not work.”
There are a number of former Salford Red Devils colleagues, including former Director of Rugby Tim Sheens, now installed in similar roles at KCOM Craven Park.
“It’s not a bad thing from our point of view because having worked alongside him for twelve months I have got to know the sort of things he will be thinking both ahead of the game and during it but it will be the players who will determine the outcome on the day.
“As coaches we here will be doing our jobs during the week and hopefully we will have prepared the team to go to Hull KR and get the victory.”
Within our ranks for the encounter, will undoubtedly be new recruit, Jackson Hastings, who made such an incredible impact in his Betfred Super League debut against Leeds.
Watson said: “The really pleasing thing is that he has come in and lifted everybody’s spirits with his enthusiasm and confidence. We have also seen that he is a genuine footballer who can read the play and so bring us that control which we have struggled to get all year.
“It would have been great to have been able to get him earlier but now that he is here we are looking forward to seeing what sort of on-field relationships he can strike up with the players around him. He provides leadership, and the forwards are going to listen to someone who is organising things around them, and they will fit into what is needed to be done.
“Rob Lui, on the back of that, stepped up to a different level and I thought he was the best player on the field that night. Hopefully a little bit of the pressure will be taken off him now.
Joey Lussick has also arrived in recent weeks and could be set to debut against Hull Kingston Rovers on Friday evening.
“Jackson and Joey have played together before and we have spent some time working with them and fullback Niall Evalds to help them build a thorough understanding throughout them all.”
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