Kevin Brown knows more about Challenge Cup final heartache than most.
The veteran Salford Red Devils playmaker wants to avoid making history by becoming the first player to lose four finals with four different clubs. And the stories behind each defeat leave the 36-year-old with a burning desire to set the record straight against Leeds.
Back in 2004 Brown was knocked out twice as Wigan lost to St Helens in Cardiff and spent the aftermath of the game barely aware he’d played in a major final. Fast-forward five years and he had to be substituted in the early stages of Huddersfield’s defeat to Warrington after damaging his knee in a collision with his own team-mate.
By 2018 Brown was in a Wolves shirt but was part of the side ambushed by history-making Catalans, who became the first non-English club to lift the trophy. And to make matters worse, the following year when Warrington provided their own underdog triumph against St Helens, Brown was watching from the stands after being de-registered due to a serious achilles injury.
“What it means is that I really, really want to win one now,” Brown said. “The first time I was only 18 and I just thought we’d be going back every year. It took quite a while for me to get back with Huddersfield and then I blew my knee out after just 10 minutes.
“They were both tough but the 2018 one was particularly gut-wrenching. We were massive favourites but we just didn’t play well – there was no excuses we just got out-performed on the day which really hurt.”
It says much about Brown’s standing in the sport that the following year, despite being unavailable, Wolves coach Steve Price consulted him over constructing a game-plan without a recognised stand-off.
Ian Watson knew Brown’s knowledge would be invaluable to a Salford squad that lost six players from last year’s Grand Final appearance, including the talismanic Jackson Hastings. Now the former England international hopes his experience of Challenge Cup final disappointment can be used positively by the Red Devils.
Brown said: “Any advice I give will be based around playing well and not worrying about anything else. That’s why 2018 hurt so much with Warrington because we didn’t manage to do that.
“You have to make sure you perform to your best and don’t get yourself too emotionally invested in anything else. Me and Watto bounce off each other and in the last six weeks I’ve been getting more comfortable with the people around me every game.
“I grew up travelling to Challenge Cup finals to watch Wigan with my family, and I’ve played in three as a professional. Unfortunately I’ve been on the losing side all three times – but I know what to expect now and I’m excited about this one.”
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