Justin Holbrook was overjoyed he was able to sign off at St Helens with a Super League title after his side outclassed surprise packages Salford in the Grand Final.
Holbrook is set to return to the NRL to coach Gold Coast Titans in 2020 but ends his two-and-a-half-year stint at Saints with a major trophy after some heartbreaking near misses in that time.
Tries from Morgan Knowles, Zeb Taia and Mark Percival, plus Lachlan Coote’s five goals from as many attempts, underpinned a 23-6 victory over a Red Devils side that had defied all odds to reach this stage for the first time.
It was just reward for a Saints side that had finished 16 points clear at the end of the regular season, with Holbrook expressing his pride in their achievement.
He said: “I’m just so happy and proud that we got the job done. We all know how well we’ve done this season but we had to deliver here and we did.
“I just know how much it means to all our players, our staff, we know we’ve fallen short in the last couple of years so it’s probably been two and a half years to get to this stage that we’re all happy with.
“I feel satisfied. If we hadn’t have won, it would have been a really hollow feeling. To deliver the trophy back to the town, that’s what it makes it so special.
“The current group deserve so much credit. The Salford story is a great one and they played brilliant here as well but this group of players deserve as much accolades as they can get.”
Holbrook arrived at the club in 2017 and led them to the League Leaders’ Shield in the two full seasons he oversaw, while he led them to a first Challenge Cup final in 11 years before losing to Warrington in August.
Assessing his time at the helm, Holbrook added: “I’ve loved it, it’s been absolutely brilliant. Since the day I got here, I’ve loved coaching this side and I’ve loved the responsibility of the town.
“I thought I’d be a lot more emotional at full-time but I was just proud and privileged to be in this role for the boys to deliver the trophy.”
Luke Thompson collected the Harry Sunderland trophy for man of the match after spending a lung-busting 72 minutes in the thick of the action to help Saints to their first Super League title since 2014.
He said: “It’s just an unbelievable feeling. We’ve worked so hard all year as a group and we work hard every week in training.
“Just to get the win, it’s been a long time since we’ve been here. I’m made up to do the job for Justin and send him home with some silverware.”
As for Salford, even reaching this stage was highly significant, having started the season as 150-1 outsiders to go all the way and tipped by many for relegation.
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) October 12, 2019
Coach Ian Watson said: “It’s been amazing what they’ve achieved. We just spoke about it in the changing rooms there and just said it’s probably bigger than getting to a Grand Final.
“It looks like the boys have got people to fall in love with their rugby team again in Salford.
“On just that side, hopefully it can help to build the club from the ground upwards. That’s what we need to do at Salford: build a foundation like what St Helens have where you can bring young kids through and you can take them to a Grand Final and build on that.
“Hopefully we can keep some of the supporters that have got behind us at the back end of this year and they can keep coming and we can build a proper team.”