133 days ago, Gareth O’Brien produced the most stunning moment in Salford’s 144-year history.
The manner of Salford’s incredible victory in the Million Pound Game earned the club worldwide attention. Media outlets across the globe were hooked, and Salford were at the eye of the storm.
Inevitably, an experience like that has long-lasting effects. The psychological scars will remain clear for sometime, but in this instance, it can be used in a positive manner.
For Ian Watson, the memories of 2016, not just that dramatic afternoon in October, will stand him in good stead for the rest of his coaching career. But despite all the furore and accolades after steering the club away from danger, he is keen to avoid anything similar for the rest of his career.
“The Million Pound Game has changed us,” he said.
“The Million Pound Game was great for us in terms of promotion, but at the same time, we want it to be promoting the fact we’re in Challenge Cups and Grand Finals, not games like that.
“In terms of giving us extra motivation, it’s served us well as we never want to be anywhere near that position again. Hopefully we can use it in the season. If we’re off the boil or something is missing, we can use that experience as an incentive to push us through and give us that extra bit of motivation.
“We knew where we should have been last year but a few things affected us that weren’t our own doing. But it’s a clean state and this season it’s up to us to prove ourselves.
“We felt we were a top eight team last year, now is a chance for us to prove that we are once again.”
Salford’s first competitive game since that survival is against defending Super League Champions, Wigan.
There might be easier opening Super League fixtures than a clash with the current Grand Final winners, but Watson insists he can’t think of a better way to start the year than a crack at the Warriors.
“We’re itching to start,” he said.
“It’s a great first game. You’re opening your season against the champions at home. You get the chance to show the supporters what you can do and get them behind you for the rest of the season.
“We feel that the pre-season has gone well and we’ve built to where we want to be. The Wigan challenge is a great first test for us and one we’re ready to accept.
“I like the way Shaun has built the club. He’s built a mentality and a resistance. On the field they have threats all over the field and that makes them very dangerous. They’re a very good team.”