Salford Red Devils coach Ian Watson has criticized the “glamming up” of this weekend’s Million Pound Game when “livelihoods are on the line”.
Only Hull KR stand in the way of Salford retaining their Super League status this Saturday: it’s now all or nothing for the Red Devils and the pressure is beginning to tell.
It’s as simple as this: players on the losing side will have their Super League contracts terminated.
The winning team will remain in Super League for 2017.
Speaking at a press conference, the Salford coach said: “It’s not a Grand Final, it’s a serious game.
“If you want to talk about our players’ livelihoods, Adam Walney signed a contract with us four years ago when there was no promotion or relegation so he has a house and a mortgage: what does he do?
“The RFL aren’t going look after him if he loses his job.”
Watson told the assembled press at the AJ Bell Stadium that the team shouldn’t take any blame for finding themselves in this desperate situation.
“The team did their job this year getting into the top eight, but because of a salary cap breach three years ago all these players are being held accountable whilst the player who were there three years ago have been and gone.”
Prop Adam Walne will miss the match after being handed a one-match ban for a Grade B offence in Salford’s 14-42 win against Batley Bulldogs.
Hull KR full-back Ben Cockayne has told BBC Sport the entire concept was “a disgrace” which put stress on players’ mental health.
He said: “At the end of the game there’s nothing to celebrate because, if you’re on the winning side, you’re faced with a bunch of people that you respect who you play a tough sport against numerous times a season who will be out of a job.
Niall Evalds talked about the importance of the game for the club as a whole: “We are all well aware of the importance of this game, and everyone has a lot to lose if we lose on Saturday”.
Evalds also said it would spark angst among both sets of players who will battle for their professional livelihoods.
“I’m sure there will be some nervous nights for a few players during the build up, but in terms of the game it will be really tough against a good opponents and create a really good game.”
The Salford head coach also spoke about his relationship with Tim Sheens, and the Australian’s role at the club: “It [Sheens’ role] wasn’t a hands-on approach, it was more observing and putting his input in, so nothing’s really changed.”
While the decision has been public for some time, Sheens officially departs Salford to join Kingston Rovers as head coach after this game, regardless of the result.
However, Watson thanked Sheens for his advice and said he was a massive part in his own development as a coach.
“Everyone says you can’t beat experience, but he would never push you into making a decision regarding the team, because you’ve got to go with what you believe.”
Salford Red Devils play Hull KR away at the Lightstream Stadium on Saturday 1 October. Tickets are available at www.hullkr.co.uk/tickets.