Grand Final countdown: St Helens coach Justin Holbrook urges players to keep emotions in check

Justin Holbrook. Picture: SWPix
Justin Holbrook. Picture: SWPix

St Helens' outgoing coach Justin Holbrook is urging his players not to get caught up in the emotion of his final match.

The popular Australian will bring his two-and-a-half-year stint at the club to a close after Saturday's Grand Final at Old Trafford and the Saints players have publicly spoken of their desire to send him out on a high with the Super League title.

The Wigan players rode the emotion 12 months ago when they provided coach Shaun Wane with a fitting finale but Holbrook is keen for his men to focus on their performance and insists he will keep his own feelings in check, at least until the final whistle.

"I don't want them to worry about me," he said. "I'll be fine this week. It's a big opportunity we've got.

"Maybe after the game if we're good enough to win, I might get a bit emotional because I am an emotional person.

"But up until then, I'll be fine. I'm clear on what's most important, it's not about me. It's about the side playing well."

Under Holbrook, Saints have twice won the League Leaders' Shield in emphatic fashion but they have already suffered one major disappointment this year with a surprise defeat to Warrington in the Challenge Cup final.

And, after falling at the penultimate hurdle in both major competitions in 2018, it is possible Holbrook could leave Super League without either of the big prizes but he insists that would not amount to failure.

"It would be disappointing, that's what it would be," he said. "I can't get caught up in that either. I've loved every minute I've been here and done the best I could all along.

"If we're good enough then we'll win, and if we're not, we won't and I've got to live with that. It wouldn't be a failure, it would be disappointing."

Holbrook's men warmed up for their first Grand Final for five years with a seven-try rout of Wigan but the coach is wary of the threat posed by Salford, who also dismantled the reigning champions in impressive fashion and will have the support of the neutrals among the 70,000 crowd.

"It would be great to replicate how well we played in the semi-final but every game is different," Holbrook said.

"We're up against an exciting side in Salford, the hype around them is justified.

"Everybody loves an underdog don't they? I've got no issue with everyone really getting behind them, I think it's great for our sport.

"The one thing I've noticed about Salford while I've been here is that they're always good against the top sides and, the minute they get injuries, they fall away.

"But this year they've been able to keep their good side together. Jackson Hastings has played every game and he's obviously a big part of that. They've had their settled side every week."