This week sees me head of on my annual ritual to Hull, otherwise known in my circles as Caravan Land, for the preparation of our largest annual show ‘the Caravan Extravaganza’ at the Lawns in Cottingham.
It is an incredibly busy time of year for my business and requires my focus as we supply decks, steps and access ramps to more than 100 holiday homes for some of the main caravan and lodge manufacturers, which makes it difficult for me to afford much of my time to rugby business. Fortunately this year I head down there much happier and under less pressure with four points in the bag as opposed to zero this time last year, and drawing confidence from the fact we have shown we can compete with and beat a very good Super League side that many would argue are actually a top six side.
That performance was witnessed on Sky and was the first time we have faced Super League opposition this season, so in many respects it was all eyes on us.
To be completely honest I was kind of nervous but calm at the same time.
I didn’t have us under any pressure to win in my own mind and drew comfort from the fact that we had two points in the bag from London.
As I have said all along, it is a case of ensuring the next level of funding and beating the Championship sides would secure that, and in a one-off game who knows?
I was conscious of the fact that Salford were a quality side and in a false position and also that they had strengthened where they needed to in the pack.
I knew that if we completed well and didn’t give cheap penalties we were capable of beating anyone with the players we now have available.
But I was also concerned as to how Salford played - that if we didn’t do that we could find ourselves on the back end of a bad score line - which could be damaging to our confidence.
The performance spoke for itself and there were some amazing individual performances in a great team effort, with many players making more than 100 metres.
Ridy really stepped-up to the mark in defence with not a single miss, which is a big achievement from a pivot and also continued to add to his point tally with his accurate conversions, hitting the post with what would have been his 20th consecutive conversion.
Likewise Drinky also defended well with the big Murdock Masilla running at him all afternoon without success until the very end.
I received a text from a friend of mine, a former tough Super League player himself, asking just how hard is that Dayne Weston.
He has been outstanding all season and some of his kick-off returns were immense, notably putting Junior Sau on the ground, which is no easy task, and the one for me the collision with Flanagan where he hit him full tilt with Flanagan’s head smashing into Dayne’s jaw.
I was amazed he hadn’t broken his jaw, let alone get knocked-out, but up he got and after a little Vaseline on the chin was up for another carry whilst Flanagan went off in a bit of a mess, looking like needing stitches.
He showed what a tough player he is.
Hoppy got back into the team and showed some of the touches that attracted Wigan to pay a five-figure fee for him a few years ago, as did Liam Hood, who was very direct and backed-up the usual outstanding captain’s knock from Micky.
I thought we may have had the most to contend with on our edges, but it was there that Reni and Cory had great games, both scoring first early in the game.
Mitch brown showed that his debut performance, with a couple of shaky defensive issues, were nothing to worry about, with a great early shot on Josh Griffin letting him know who was going to be boss that afternoon.
This was backed-up shortly after when the pacy Caton Brown tried forcing his way round from a short side play, only to be bundled into touch.
I was extremely pleased and encouraged to see Willie Tonga with a solid 80-minute performance, especially in defence, and when the flick inside pass was shown in video review on Monday it brought a real cheer from the boys in the playing room.
I said to Willie during his time of difficulty, recovering from continuous injuries, that he would have a part to play and he certainly played his part on the stage on Saturday.
Matty Dawson showed great awareness to stay focussed, expecting that ball, which is a sign of his credentials and his performance demonstrated the transfer fee I paid for him was money well spent as I expect him to continue grow with this team.
Tickle and Acton were rock solid and punishing in defence whilst Harrison Hansen did what he always does with his blockbusting carries and big hitting defence.
Gaz Hock had an immense game, making good metres and consuming lots of Salford’s energy as it continually took five men in the tackle to halt him.
It was a big game for him with a point to prove and he did it well in a disciplined manner.
Greg Mcnally was very safe under some testing high balls and showed his usual game awareness being on the end of a bit of good fortune from Drinky’s kick.
However, the undoubted performance of the afternoon for me was from Adam Higson who was just simply outstanding both in defence and attack.
He set the tone right from the off with his try-saving tackle on Caton Brown, something he repeated later in the game showing just how much commitment and desire he has for this team.
His chase back on Robert Lui, diving at his ankles from the rear, was a selfless act of bravery - something not many players will do but it was again a clear sign of how much he wanted to win. Above all that, his defining moment for me was the fantastic finish at a vital time, when he showed immense strength from a position that never looked on, to ground a one-handed, inch-perfect finish in the corner under immense pressure from the powerful Hull FC-bound Josh Griffin.
And that to me was a Super League or NRL finish all day long.
I have to admit at 32 to 16 with only a few minutes left I headed down to the dug outs ready to congratulate the boys.
I was buzzing, not with relief but with pride for what they had achieved.
Then it came this awful feeling of premature joy went through me like a cold shiver as Salford scored back to back tries.
We had switched of the week earlier running out of energy and I was nervous this was going to see our great performance come undone.
It wasn’t to be and as the hooter sounded the reaction of Micky Higham said it all to me.
He was absolutely elated. It was at that moment I realised I now definitely have the most important ingredient of them all.
The one that my check book cannot bring to the table, the ingredient that binds all the rest together but has to find its own way there. Team spirit!
Yes we have a team with a single minded approach to achieving its goals and that is the vital ingredient if we are to finally achieve Super League status.
I enjoyed the moment I must admit, and I must congratulate the Salford players who were very honourable in defeat, each of them congratulating me stating that we deserved it and they hope we get into Super League.
I thought that was very humbling of them and I wish them well for the remainder of their campaign which I am sure will see them retain their Super League status and go onto their deserved higher position next season.
For us though it’s far from job done and as I joined the players huddle at the end that was made abundantly clear as captains Micky Higham and Cory Paterson spelled out that four points doesn’t get anyone into Super League and it is imperative that we stay focussed, keep disciplined and prepare meticulously for the trip to Featherstone to back this performance up and make it worthwhile as anything less with see all that hard work go to waste.
The changing room was bouncing on Saturday and it was by far the loudest and proudest winning song of the season.
A song sung by a team - a winning team that is grounded and focussed and well aware of the difficult job that still lies ahead.
A job that was outlined in no uncertain terms by the coaching team on Monday morning in the team meeting and video.
We are well aware of how good Featherstone can be and are not drawn into a false sense of security from their blow out scores against Super League opposition.
They came through the equivalent of three finals to make the 8s and then have had two difficult games against Super League sides where for the large part they have been very competitive indeed before falling away towards the end.
We are well aware that they will be focussing on this game as the game they need to win to give themselves a shot at making the Million Pound Game and that they will be ready for us. I am confident that our coaching team will prepare our squad with attention to detail leaving nothing to chance and at the end of the 80 minutes everyone at this club will be able to look back with no regrets.
If that is the case we will have a very good chance of going into the break with six points and a great opportunity of achieving this town’s dreams.
Get down to Featherstone and support the boys, they really do appreciate it.
It is a massive lift to them and I can tell you the lads talk about it. It gives them a focus, an understanding, a purpose and most of all a desire to find something more when there is nothing there.
Featherstone is a nostalgic ground with a great atmosphere and their fans are very vocal making for a fantastic atmosphere. I will be making the trip across from Caravan Land, something I didn’t do this time last year but I wouldn’t miss this one for a gold pig as the saying goes!