Three years ago Kevin Brown and Luke Gale were on the verge of steering England to a World Cup Final Down Under.
On Saturday they will be two of the key figures in the Challenge Cup showdown between Salford and Leeds at Wembley.
Back in 2017 they came together as halfback partners midway through the tournament after a shift in approach from coach Wayne Bennett – and were actually room-mates in the closing weeks of the competition.
Brown said: “Luke’s a great lad and I can still remember us going to bed after the Tonga semi-final and laughing about the fact that we were about to play in a World Cup Final and how we’d dreamed of that as kids.
“You never forget moments like that, which you share with the people around you.
“It was great to play alongside him and I really enjoyed it.
“He’s a similar player to me in that he demands a lot of the people around him. He’s not as athletic as some halfbacks, but he’s so sharp between the ears that he more than makes up for it.
“He has a quality, composed kicking game and I think he fits perfectly into the coach’s style at Leeds.
“I worked with Richard Agar at Warrington, the year Tony Smith left, and Rich took us on a winning run.
“I know how good he is as a coach and what he demands of his halfbacks, and Luke being vocal and having a great kicking game is exactly what he wants.
“Luke has been fantastic for them, and that’s after a tough period over the last few years with injuries.
“He’s back to his best now from before his knee and achilles injuries.
“We both did it tough last year with our achilles and I’m really pleased how it’s worked out for him – I just hope he lifts the Super League trophy at the end of the year and we can have the Challenge Cup.”
Brown himself is hoping to avoid an unwanted record on Saturday – losing four Challenge Cup finals with four different clubs, having also missed out with Wigan, Huddersfield and Warrington.
He added: “It’s unfortunate, but what it means is that I really, really want to win one.
“The 2018 one with Warrington losing to Catalans hurt the most, because we were massive favourites that day but just got out-performed on the day.
“My advice to any players now is don’t worry about anything else, just focus on playing well.
“You have to make sure you don’t pump yourself up too much or get too emotionally invested. Just play well and the rest will look after itself.
“We’ve beaten two fantastic sides so far and we’re going into the game confident that we can perform.”
Brown has been selected in Salford’s 21-man squad for Tuesday’s game against Hull KR, although he isn’t expected to play.
As expected, Ian Watson will also rest several key players ahead of Wembley. Tui Lolohea, Dan Sarginson, Kallum Watkins, Gil Dudson and Joey Lussick are all out of the squad, with the likes of Oliver Roberts, Connor Jones, Luis Roberts, Connor Aspey and Tom Gilmore called up instead.
Salford squad v Hull KR (Tuesday): Ed Chamberlain, Krisnan Inu, Kevin Brown, Lee Mossop, Ryan Lannon, Pauli Pauli, Tyrone McCarthy, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Greg Burke, Luke Yates, Chris Atkin, Mark Flanagan, Elliot Kear, Connor Jones, Jack Ormondroyd, Connor Aspey, Luis Roberts, Oliver Roberts, Andy Ackers, Tom Gilmore, Oliver Ashall-Bott.
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