TOUGHER times lie ahead for Salford Red Devils so they must seize the day in the Betfred Super League Grand Final, according to legendary Leeds Rhinos second-row Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
Ian Watson’s side stand on the cusp of an awe-inspiring against-all-odds Super League title triumph following a campaign that has been the talk of both rugby league and the wider sporting world.
Salford were one of the pre-season relegation candidates but rode a remarkable wave of momentum, including going on an eight-game winning streak to reach the play-offs, and proved all critics wrong.
The final hurdle on the journey, however, is 80 minutes at Old Trafford against the mighty runaway league leaders St Helens – a daunting task for any team, let alone underdogs Salford.
With star player Jackson Hastings set to join Wigan Warriors from next season, Jones-Buchanan admits the pressure is on the Red Devils to make the most of their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I hope they’re not just happy with getting to Old Trafford, especially with Jackson leaving to go to Wigan after this year,” said Jones-Buchanan, speaking at the Betfred Super League Awards where he was given the Spirit of Super League Award.
“That squad is going to find some challenges in 2020 so I hope they can get a win to help attract more people to the club.”
Salford’s journey from relegation candidates to Grand Final contestants has been the talk of the sport, captivating fans across the world in a landmark Betfred Super League season.
It comes at a time when the sport as a whole is achieving new landmarks, with top flight rugby league set to be played in North America for the first time in 2020 following Toronto Wolfpack’s historic promotion from the Betfred Championship.
With this in mind, Jones-Buchanan believes Salford have opened new horizons for the game with their unprecedented year.
He added: “Excitement or disappointment always lies in the gap between expectation and reality.
“A lot of people at the start of the season would have expected St Helens to do well but what Salford have done, the gap is massive from expectations of them being relegated.
“I’m a Leeds supporter and it’s been a tough year for us but Leeds can’t survive without a healthy game, we exist within an ecosystem and Salford have just expanded that now.
“I think the sport is in really special times with Toronto and Salford.
“Salford are exactly what the game needs. That’s the real success story.
“It’s very difficult to look past St Helens though, they’ve just been an enigma in 2019 and the way they’ve stood up and played has been just out of this world. Rugby league will be the winner.”
The Betfred Super League Grand Final is the biggest night in Super League and takes place at Old Trafford, the iconic home of Manchester United on Saturday 12 October (6pm KO). Secure your seat by visiting https://www.superleague.co.uk/tickets/grand-final