Salford Red Devils v Castleford Tigers – Time to etch our name on trophy, says Oli Holmes

AS he marks his 200th career game tonight, Castleford Tigers second-row Oli Holmes accepts it would be “massive” to see a new name engraved on the Super League trophy at last.

Oli Holmes: Ready for the Red Devils.

His principal aim, though, is to ensure it his side, rather than opponents Salford Red Devils, who remain in the running to achieve that long-awaited goal.

Both clubs – neither of whom have savoured Grand Final glory –meet with their campaigns on the line in the elimination play-off at AJ Bell Stadium.

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Win and they are just 80 minutes from Old Trafford. Lose? Time to get the flip-flops out and find some winter sun.

THREAT: Salford's Jackson Hastings. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

Since the competition’s inaugural season in 1996, Leeds Rhinos (eight wins), St Helens (six), Wigan Warriors (five) and Bradford Bulls have monopolised the trophy.

Indeed, not since 2004, when Leeds secured the first of those Grand Final wins, has the inscriber need to etch something new.

Castleford, without a league title in their entire 93-year history, have been close before, famously scorching to the League Leaders’ Shield two years ago only to crumble at the hands of Leeds in the main event.

Salford, though, are a different entity altogether, surging from relegation candidates before the season’s start, to their best summer era finish of third, inspired by the maverick brilliance of Australian scrum-half Jackson Hastings.

Holmes, who made his senior debut for Castleford in 2010, said: “It would be massive for the game in general, not just for the club (to get a new winner).

“It’d be massive for the league. There’s only four teams on there so it’d be nice to scratch another name on the bottom end of it.

“It is going to be a tough challenge; Salford have been the form team for the last 10 weeks. They hit a bit of form; they had a tough loss to Wigan last week, but we know we are in for tough game.

“We are prepared and ready. A lot of the pundits predicted them to be bottom end of the table.

“That is a credit to Ian Watson and all the players over there that they have got themselves in the position that they did to finish third and get a second crack of the whip. It just shows how good a team they are this year.”

Salford had won eight games on the trot before being edged out 18-12 at Wigan on Friday, 24 hours after fifth-placed Castleford eliminated Warrington Wolves.

Salford are sweating on Hastings, who suffered an eye injury in that game while Castleford are purely concentrating on correcting what happened two years ago.

“We got there in 2017 and there is a little bit of a bitter taste still there from that loss to Leeds,” conceded Normanton-born Holmes, who made his England debut against France last autumn on the back of a career filled with industry and big hits.

“There are a lot of people still here from that team and we are looking to get back there and put things right. It would mean everything to the club, the fans and myself. It would be unbelievable.”

Players and staff have shown their support to the fans by offering 700 free coach places for travel to tonight’s game which were quickly snapped up.

As for whose job it will be to tie down Man of Steel contender Hastings, Holmes said: “Everybody’s. He is all over the field; he is not just sticking to his edge and he catches defenders that are switching off.

“It is not a one-person job, it is the full team. They have not just got Jackson Hastings, they have got a lot of damaging players throughout the squad.

“They wouldn’t be in the position they are in with just one man.

“Salford had a little bit of a safety net last week. Both teams haven’t got that now so it will be interesting to see how the game is played and how it will pan out.

“It is do or die now. There is a big prize at the end of it all and that is the main goal.”

Leaders St Helens host Wigan tomorrow with the winner booking their Old Trafford spot.