Jonny Lomax takes Jackson Hastings praise with a pinch of salt

Jonny Lomax believes Jackson Hastings is playing mind games ahead of their clash in Saturday’s Betfred Super League Grand Final.

The duel between arguably the two best half-backs in England could help determine the destination of the title when Lomax’s hot favourites St Helens take on Hastings’ surprise package Salford.

Hastings is fresh from being crowned 2019 Man of Steel but recently told a live television audience that a more deserving winner would be Lomax after labelling him the best player in the competition.

Lomax is taking those comments with a pinch of salt, although he was gracious enough to acknowledge them.

“Obviously they were quite nice words for Jackson to say,” Lomax said. “He said something similar earlier in the year and I sent him a private message thanking him.

“Although it was very kind of him, I think it was a bit of a deflection of how well he’s played this year, he’s been the stand-out player for Salford all year.

“When you’re producing those kind of performances week in, week out, it brings about media attention which can also bring pressure so in some ways he’s playing a clever little card.

“He’s a smart half and I think he’s pretty smart off the field with those comments.

“But I think there’s a lot of mutual respect between the two of us. If Man of Steel was still down to players’ votes, then he would have got my vote.”

While St Helens justified their pre-season favouritism by finishing 16 points clear at the top of the table, the Red Devils confounded the critics who tipped them to be involved in another relegation battle.

Lomax says he always expected Ian Watson’s men to be challenging for the play-offs.

“I think certain areas of the media have spoken about Salford in a disrespectful manner,” he said.

Jonny Lomax, left, has enjoyed a fine season for Saints
Jonny Lomax, left, has enjoyed a fine season for Saints (Paul Harding/PA)

“We have known all year what a threat Salford pose. They’ve got a quality side with people with NRL experience across the board and I’m not just talking about the boys from overseas.

“They’ve got Mark Flanagan, Lee Mossop and Tyrone McCarthy who have gone over there and done really well and returned. And they’ve got Grand Final winners among them.”

Lomax is hoping to break his duck by becoming a Grand Final winner for the first time.

He was on the wing as a 20-year-old when Saints lost to Wigan at Old Trafford in 2010 and 12 months later was in the halves when they went down to Leeds.

A knee injury then forced him to watch from the sidelines as Saints ended their barren run with victory over Wigan in 2014.

“Obviously it’s a dream to be back here,” he said. “It’s something you talk about in pre-season so it’s 12 months of hard work more or less to get here.

“You’ve got to make sure you enjoy these moments as much as possible.”

Although they have clearly had the best team all year, Lomax knows from experience it will count for nothing at Old Trafford, having lost to underdogs already in August’s Challenge Cup final.

“Wembley definitely hurt but the good thing is we were back into it a week later,” he said.

“That’s what is probably a bit different about this one. You’ve got to wait until next February for the next game so this one can stay with you and linger.”

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