Alongside David Clegg, Josh Jones Looks Back Over The Career Which Has Brought Him To Salford
The 2015 Grand Final will undoubtedly be remembered as the year of one of the most remarkable in the history of Super League, when a young and injury hit St Helens overcame their deadly rivals, Wigan, despite losing their one and only fit half back, Lance Hohaia, to injury, in the opening stages of the encounter. The redoubtable Paul Wellens once again showed his versatility, adaptability and big game experience, by moving to stand-off half.
Within the Saints’ ranks that day, was their up and coming young centre, and now Salford Red Devil, Josh Jones, who despite being a mere twenty-one, was regarded as one of the senior players in the team, alongside another with connections to Salford – former half back, and centre, Jordan Turner, who on this occasion turned out at loose forward.
Josh still vividly remembers his walking out, that evening, at the Theatre of Dreams, and indeed the build up to it, with everyone talking to him about the coming match, throughout the whole of the week. Nothing, though, compared with the actual day.
“Walking out at Old Trafford was quite overwhelming,” he proudly recalls. “It was an absolutely amazing day, and even now I still get goose bumps, whenever I watch it back.”
Growing up in the Chorley area, it was football which was Josh’s first preference, playing centre-midfield with Leyton Albion, whilst concurrently turning out at stand-off for Leyton Warriors, whom he had joined at the age of six, before moving on to Chorley Panthers three years later.
Playing rugby in the morning and football in the afternoon may be all right for young children, but there comes a time when the demands of both become too great, and, for Josh, this came upon starting high school, at the age of eleven. In the end, his decision was determined by his love of a rough and tumble as an outlet for his energy, together with the fact that he felt he was naturally more suited to rugby.
He stayed with the Panthers, through to the age of fifteen, but the season which stands out in his memory was at U14 level, when he was appointed captain of the side, and, under his leadership, his team was promoted to the top tier. The fact that he stayed there for so long was probably down to the fact that he got on so very well with his coach, who moved up each season with the team, and so provided guidance and consistency throughout the time.
His choice to concentrate on rugby, rather than football, proved to be well-founded, as his development was justifiably enhanced by his involvement, initially, in regional camps, which led on to his playing for Lancashire for three years, from the age of twelve, moving up to represent the North West, against the likes of London, Yorkshire and Cumbria, and finally being selected for England, at centre, as an U14.
The big game experience with which this provided him, benefitted him greatly in the years which followed, as a professional, and not least in that aforementioned Grand Final. His move to Knowsley Road came as early as the age of twelve, and despite the fact that he had grown up watching his more local side, Wigan Warriors at the behest of his father, who was a keen fan of theirs.
In all, he spent ten marvellous years with the Saints, with whom he quickly adapted to their style of open rugby, and for whom he developed a very strong affiliation and loyalty, while they, for their part, looked after him well, and enhanced his development throughout the whole of his time with them. Unsurprisingly, he always looked forward to the fixtures with Wigan, and, for him, those matches, against the side he had grown up watching, were always the highlight of the season.
Ten years at the same club is, however, a considerable length of time, and, at the end of 2015, Josh felt that he needed a change, and he left to make the change of codes, with Exeter Chiefs. This turned out to be for a much shorter spell than he had initially envisaged, owing to family reasons, and he was quickly enticed, by Marwan Koukash, to join ourselves, here, at the A J Bell.
“I liked the camaraderie he generated throughout the club, and I got on with him really well.
“We had our ups and downs, in that first season, but made real progress last year. The fact that we will have a similar team to, and same coach for the third year, will make for great stability.”
With this in mind, and although his experience with Saints in the Grand Final is now just a distant memory, he assures me that he is still extremely eager to repeat it here at Salford.