Super League Grand Final: Josh Jones front and centre for Salford Red Devils

A lot has changed for Josh Jones since his last appearance in the Super League Grand Final.

It is five years since he was part of the St Helens team which defeated Wigan Warriors 14-6 at Old Trafford, the club he will now line up against when current side Salford Red Devils step out onto the pitch.

Jones feels older and wiser too, not to mention having had a brief spell playing rugby union for Exeter Chiefs, but the biggest change has been shifting from the backs to the forwards.

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The 26-year-old has made the seamless transition from centre to second row since joining Salford in 2016, something which came at the suggestion of head coach Ian Watson.

“When I came back to Salford, Watto said did I want to play in the back row,” Jones told Sky Sports. “I like getting in the middle, I like defending, I like attacking, I like playing off the half and being involved a bit more.

“Since then, I’ve got into it and luckily I’ve had a great year this year – and hopefully it’s not finished yet.

“I like getting in the middle, I like defending, I like attacking, I like playing off the half and being involved a bit more.”

Josh Jones

“I don’t have to be as quick to play back row either, which is great! I can just use my power and my footwork.”

The rampaging threat he poses in the forwards is underlined by the fact only three players in Super League have made more metres than the 3,383 Jones has racked up from 461 carries this year – one of them being team-mate Jackson Hastings.

It is no surprise to Jones that the Red Devils’ inspirational half-back claimed the 2019 Man of Steel award, hailing not only his performances for the team but for helping the former Blackbrook amateur bring his own game on as well.

“He’s brought my game on leaps and bounds and that’s why he won Man of Steel, because he’s been the best player in the league all year – and it’s shown,” Jones said.

“He’s brought more of the enjoyment factor back for me. We’re good mates on the field and off it, and out of everyone I probably spend more time with him and Joey Lussick off the field – and that’s been replicated with how we play on the field.

“He’s made my stats go through the roof and I’ve never worked so hard in a game because of him! But he’s a fantastic player and bloke, and if there’s anyone to be a talisman for the club it’s him.”

Jones’ performances have caught the eye of Great Britain head coach Wayne Bennett as well, with the back row being named as the only Salford player in the elite performance squad for the upcoming winter tour.

The chance of being on the plane for the first Lions tour for over a decade has meant some disruption to personal plans, namely having to put back his honeymoon due to getting married the day after this week’s Grand Final.

But it is a sacrifice Jones is happy to make if it means being part of the squad to face Tonga, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

“I’ve got a very busy week,” Jones said. “I’ve got a Grand Final Saturday, get married on Sunday and then, if I get on the tour, I fly out with them on Wednesday.

“The honeymoon plans are long gone, but we can go away any time. Playing for Great Britain only comes around once in a lifetime, so I couldn’t pass that opportunity up.

“I had the old Great Britain replica shirt, so that’s kind of my last memory of it and to wear that shirt would make me proud of myself – and my family would be proud of me as well.”

The Grand Final is the only thing on Jones’ mind at present, however, and it will mark the final game in a Red Devils shirt for him before he joins Super League rivals Hull FC next season.

But it is a strange twist of fate that he finds himself playing in his last match for Salford on one of rugby league’s biggest stages against the club he previously won the Grand Final with – something which is not lost on Jones.

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