Grand Final countdown: Praise for Salford coach Ian Watson

Salford coach Ian Watson. Picture: SWPix
Salford coach Ian Watson. Picture: SWPix

Salford coach Ian Watson has assembled a Grand Final team on a shoestring budget and his so-called misfits and cast-offs have lifted the lid on the secret of his success.


Only relegated London Broncos spent less on wages in 2019 than the Red Devils, who are 80 minutes away from lifting their first league title for 43 years.

"It's well known that a lot of our players have been moved on from other clubs," Watson said.

"Some were told they wouldn't play there in the future and they've come to Salford and represented themselves outstandingly well."

A classic example is Wales international Gil Dudson, the former Wigan prop who faced an uncertain future when Widnes were relegated from Super League 12 months ago but has played the best rugby of his career in 2019.

"With Watto, it's very simple, he sees things that some people don't see," said Dudson, who played with Watson for Wales.

"Watto talks a lot about his schooling in the Championship and being able to find diamonds in the rough.

"He takes a lot of pride in being able to find players that have been discarded by other teams and helps them flourish and get back to where they have been or even further on again."

Dudson's fellow front rower Lee Mossop, who came up with the term "misfits", also found himself at a crossroads when he left Wigan.

"It's been well reported that a lot of players in our squad were at a low points in their careers or weren't wanted," he said.

"Luckily he saw something in all of us and got us playing our best rugby. It's one of his main attributes, to get the best out of players, it's very special."

Loose forward Mark Flanagan, Mossop's fellow co-captain who won a Grand Final with St Helens, is also in debt to Watson.

"It's a bit of love," Flanagan said. "He puts his arm around you and fills you with confidence.

"He also he doesn't make it confusing in terms of roles. He tells you exactly how he wants you to play and that clarity makes players' jobs really easy,

"When you've got a coach that believes in you, it brings out the best in you."

Second rower Josh Jones, who is moving to Hull in 2020, is another member of Saints' 2014 title-winning team in with a chance of winning a second Grand Final ring thanks largely to the influence of Watson.

"He's a great coach and a great bloke," Jones said. "The thing he is your friend before he is your coach. He builds relationships and then works with you to get the best out of you."

Watson, 42, who had two spells as a player with Salford before succeeding Iestyn Harris as head coach four years ago, says his success is the result of a simple philosophy.

"It's built on a work ethic, nothing else," he said. "The more you persevere and the more determined you are, success will come on the back of that.

"We don't like egos and, if people think they are bigger than the group, they quickly get pushed aside."