Hodgson's play-off point of honour

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The Independent Online

Salford have Bradford memories good and bad to deal with as they go there for their first-ever Super League play-off game this evening.

Finishing fifth in the regular season has been an achievement built on foundations established at Odsal, where the Salford coach, Karl Harrison, and his assistants, James Lowes and Scott Naylor, all learnt their trade.

"We've had this Bradford game on our minds for the last three weeks. I always thought we would be playing Bradford," Harrison said. "The players have turned up this week with a fantastic attitude. We've worked really hard to get into the six and we'll make a nuisance of ourselves. I'm not saying we're good enough to win the competition, but we'll give a good show."

David Hodgson, the one Salford player to be named in Super League's Dream Team this week, believes that the club have done enough to deserve to be taken seriously. "As a group of players, we aren't really satisfied with making the top six," he said. "We want to have a real go at these play-offs now and see how far we can go."

Hodgson says that a 34-4 defeat at Odsal early in the season will be a spur tonight. "We've not had many thrashings this season, but that was one. We feel we've got a point to prove after they beat us convincingly," he said.

The Salford captain, Malcolm Alker, remembers something far, far worse - the 96-16 massacre there six years ago, after which he issued a public apology. That is the sort of memory that underlines how far his club have come. "The play-offs were a billion miles away then," he said. "It was all about survival."

In tomorrow's National League One play-offs, either Hull KR or Widnes will go straight into the Grand Final, while Whitehaven and Batley try to avoid elimination in the other semi-final.

A host of former internationals will play in a fund-raising match for the stricken former Great Britain captain and Wigan coach, Mike Gregory, at Wigan St Patricks tomorrow afternoon.

The Australian club Cronulla have lined up Ricky Stuart to replace the former Castleford and Wigan coach, Stuart Raper, who has been sacked with a year of his contract still to run after the Sharks failed to make the play-offs.

Stuart, the Kangaroo coach, lost his own club job at the Sydney Roosters last month.

Brisbane Broncos have reached the Australian Grand Final by coming back from 20-6 at half-time to beat Canterbury 37-20 - the biggest comeback in finals history.

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