St Helens coach Nathan Brown said the Grand Final victory against Wigan Warriors was due to the ‘culture’ the club possesses, insisting there isn’t another outfit in the world that has one like Saints.
After losing key players Jonny Lomax, Luke Walsh and Jon Wilkin during the course of the season, Saints again had to do it the hard way in the Old Trafford showpiece, losing half-back Lance Hohaia after he was concussed by Ben Flower.
And Brown believes that if someone had said Saints would win a major final with forward Mark Flanagan and full-back Paul Wellens in the halves, nobody would have believed them.
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“Coming into the game the two players you wouldn’t want to get hurt would be James Roby or Lance,” Brown said.
“We had to move Wello into the halves, put (Tommy) Makinson at full-back and have Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook at right centre. Even against 12 I thought if we were to win the game it would be scrappy and ugly.
“If you’d have said that Mark Flanagan would play a Grand Final at seven, Wellens at five-eighth and Louie at centre, we would have all broke down laughing.
“But the culture of the club carries it through. Saints have had that here for 16 years. Roby, Wellens and Wilkin have learnt that from Keiron Cunningham, Paul Sculthorpe… Wello, Robes and Wilkin are why we have won here.
“I have never seen a culture like it, and I’d be surprised if it exists at any other club.”
Brown described Flower’s attack on Hohaia – which earned the Wigan prop a red card – as something that would have happened in the “old days”.
“The referee had no choice but to send Ben Flower off, did he? Lance is a tough little fella and he wanted to come back on, but he couldn’t legally because of his concussion.
“I’ve been playing and coaching for a long time and I haven’t seen that in a Grand Final, not in the modern era. It probably happened in the old days, but in 25-odd years, I’ve never seen anything like it in a final.”
Brown also insisted that had Wigan lost three highly influential players like Saints had, they would not have reached the Grand Final.
“If Sean O’Loughlin, Michael McIlorum and Blake Green had been injured eight weeks ago, I can guarantee you Wigan wouldn’t have run out on that field at Old Trafford. They would have been beaten last week by Warrington and not even got to this stage.
“The proof is there about the club’s culture. St Helens have got some brilliant recruits coming in next year, and they’ll prosper off the back of what has happened this year.”