Long-held anguish Holbrook’s motivation ahead of semi-final

It’s just over a year since a crestfallen Justin Holbrook slumped in his chair and struggled to find words after seeing his side lose in that play-off semi-final to Castleford.

12 months have been and gone since then and St Helens have gone on an extraordinary journey, but that defeat still cuts deep inside the Australian.

“I’ve nearly got over it,” he says when asked.

Speaking while looking out on the incredible Old Trafford pitch, Holbrook admits the only way he’ll be able to heal that wound is by not only reaching the Theatre of Dreams, but by winning there, too.

“I came down here last year to watch the Grand Final and from that moment onwards I’ve wanted to be a part of it this year. I’d love to be here next week.”

Saints are huge favourites to do just that. Their stunning start to the year saw them win the League Leaders’ Shield at a canter.

Their form in the Super 8s has left their superiority up for debate, but their recent performance, including a hammering of Castleford, suggest they’ve found form again when they need it the most.

“This year we’ve known for some time we’d have a home semi-final.

“We’ve had a chance this year to sort guys up with niggling injuries and train smarter whereas last year we were desperate. We’re in a better position, we’ve earned a home semi but we have to perform when it counts.

“What you can’t just do is when every single week. It just can’t happen as much as you want to. In the end, before the Super 8s started we were guaranteed a home semi so it’s hard to keep on that path. We lost a couple but it’s definitely helped us. I’m glad we’re on with the semis, we’re ready, we’ve got Robs (James Roby) and Benny (Barba) firing, we’re in a good place.

“The reason we set out to coach in the game is to win things. We want to go on and do that now.”