Wow. What an achievement. What a story. Little old Salford Red Devils have made it to the Grand Final. Tipped by virtually everyone to be firmly in the relegation scrap this season, they have played some unbelievable rugby against all odds and fully deserve their spot at Old Trafford. The 28-4 triumph over a stunned and well-beaten Wigan Warriors was hardly the nail-biting, tense and dramatic Semi-Final we were all anticipating. Salford bullied Wigan. Far superior in every department and despite being much less experienced in big games, they handled the pressure of the occasion far better than their opponents. I am truly thrilled for Salford and will have an article out the week after the Grand Final in tribute to their unbelievable campaign which will hopefully highlight just how phenomenally well both the players and coaching staff have done throughout 2019.
St Helens, possibly the most dominant team Super League has ever witnessed, will take on the greatest underdog story Super League has ever witnessed in arguably the most fascinating Grand Final in recent history. On paper, across the park, you would have to say St Helens are overwhelming favourites; but the game is of course played on grass. The fearless Red Devils have now ruthlessly won ten of their last eleven encounters and came by far the closest out of every team in the competition to overcoming St Helens on their own patch back in May, falling to an agonising 32-30 defeat at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
The runaway league leaders boast a tremendously well-balanced pack that contains the power of Alex Walmsley and Luke Thompson, along with the engines of Morgan Knowles and Dominique Peyroux. They win the forwards battle almost always and have bags of quality playing off the back of that with James Roby, Theo Fages, Jonny Lomax and Lachlan Coote providing try-scoring strike weapons Mark Percival and Tommy Makinson plenty of service. St Helens are clearly a very difficult team to handle when they get a roll on but Salford are unpredictable, underrated, fearless and an enigma. They are playing with a lot of confidence, flair and can certainly cause Saints a lot of problems. If anyone can contain all that size, quality and speed in the St Helens armour, they can. The Red Devils have some genuine top quality themselves with the likes of Jackson Hastings, Joey Lussick, Niall Evalds and Josh Jones, with unsung heroes Jake Bibby, Gil Dudson and George Griffin having the season of their careers. Anything can happen in 80 minutes. In addition to that Salford have conceded just one try in their last two games. They will be a tough nut to crack.
This should be one of the hardest-to-call, entertaining and refreshing Grand Finals in recent Super League history. Can the best team of 2019 finish the job or will the best story of 2019 have its happy ending? I can’t wait to find out.