Salford have set example by reaching Wembley - Gareth Ellis column

It is brilliant to see Salford Red Devils reach a first Challenge Cup final in 51 years.

Pointing the way: Salford Red Devils' Kallum Watkins celebrates scoring his side's first try and setting up a final against former club Leeds. Picture: PA

We’ve got used to the same names being in and around both major trophies – aside from Catalans breaking it the other year – for such a long time.

It’s almost become the norm’ so to see another club involved in a final again after backing up from what many might have thought was a one-off in last year’s Grand Final.

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Given their league position this year, too, that just shows the beauty of the Cup.

But go right back even further to that ‘Million Pound Game’ against Hull KR in 2016.

We always talk about fine margins in sport but there’s no finer margin than how that match panned out – staying up in Golden Point.

Salford had a few financial difficulties around that time and who knows where they would have ended up if it had gone the other way and been relegated.

To think they’ve gone from that point and really progressed, not just stuck in that rut of being a yo-yo team or one languishing at the bottom. They’ve made real improvements on and off the field.

They seem a much more stable club off it now and there’s rewards for consistency on the pitch where they just keep going.

It looked like they’d lost the quarter-final against Catalans but came back and they did the same against Warrington.

It’s a real good trait to have. They never let the scoreboard get away from them. Once they got opportunities to put some points on the scoreboard they took them and it’s great that they have that in their arsenal.

It comes from the top, too, and the culture instilled in them over the last few years.

I don’t know their head coach Ian Watson personally so I’m like everyone else just looking from the outside in.

It’s all well and good knowing the tactical side of the game which he clearly does; you hear him speak after games and he points things out on what they have worked on and how he analyses the other team, so he obviously has the nous.

But there’s having that and also getting your players to buy in. Not only that, it’s making sure you’re getting the best out of your players.

I think the best thing that teams can do – and it’s something for ourselves at Hull FC to think about – is realise what you are.

I remember Andy Last getting frustrated when Jenna Brooks asked him about Hull being really good on paper and he sort of rolled his eyes. That – on paper – doesn’t mean anything.

Salford have realised what they are: a hard-working team with a few players discarded by other clubs and that knowledge helps them achieve results.

They remind me in a slightly different way of Melbourne Storm; they have that ability of knowing whoever’s playing in whatever position, they have a job to do and they go out and do it. Salford’s players have a similar mindset: they have a job to do and they go out there and do that job to the best of their ability.

If you have got all class and silky players like the top clubs do, they can sometimes get you out of trouble and win you games.

But when you are a team that is probably not as fashionable or has been up there for years, you learn that you have to be a hard-working team that grinds games out. Saturday’s game was a perfect example of that: players just sticking to their task and grinding, grinding, grinding until eventually they came out the other side. And now they’re in the final.

They will play Leeds, who have come a long way themselves since getting it from all angles when they lost to Bradford Bulls in the Cup last year.

Obviously they have such high expectations there and have delivered over a number of years but probably had a bit of a transitional period since.

Some young lads have started to come through with a lot of experienced players leaving and it left a void where they might not have known where they were going.

However, from within, the management there probably always knew where they were heading and just knew it would take some time to click in.

They simply outplayed Wigan on Saturday which is not easily done and they did so in every aspect of the game.

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James Mitchinson