FROM punching the air in delight to putting his head in hands in despair, it has not taken Justin Holbrook long to fully buy into what life is like on the Saints rollercoaster.

And after Thursday’s heart-breaking semi-final knockout at Castleford there was no sign of him really hiding his feelings after seeing the team’s Old Trafford dreams ripped up in such a devastating manner.

But the 41-year-old Australian, who joined Saints from Sydney Roosters four months ago, is not spending the off-season moping over the twists, turns and travails of a season.

Rather he is throwing all those feelings of hurt, in with some of the positives the side drew upon, into the off-season to motivate his charges for a tilt at the title in 2018.

And no doubt, just as in 2005 to 2006, the words unfinished business will be not far from the lips of the players after finally coming together in the run-in before one last fateful twist.

Once this week’s individual reviews with each player are done, Holbrook will meet with the coaching and performance staff to work out a strategy for their off-season preparations.

And after that Holbrook, accompanied by physio Nathan Mill and Matty Daniels, the club’s head of strength and conditioning, will head off to America for a study tour to Oregon University, Seattle Seahawks and Memphis Grizzlies.

But at the training ground this week, taking a break from those meticulous player reviews, Holbrook was still smarting from feelings of what might have been.

Not quite ready to start on a clean page for 2018 just yet, he confessed: “You can see by the way I carry on that I get emotional whether things are good or bad.

“It was a pretty devastating to lose a game that we thought we were going to win.

“It is really hard for me to take. Cas have been the best team since round one, and everyone else outside of St Helens has been saying Cas are going to the Grand Final for weeks.

“I get why they said that. But for us, the way we have built at the back end of the year, I felt we had as good a chance as any of the four teams in the semis to win the comp.

“As the game unfolded, to fight our way back after a terrible start and lead at half time.

“And then to go down 20-10 but fight back again showed their character and the self-belief that we could win those games.

“There were so many positives, and good signs from my side that was looking good, but we’d love to be playing on Saturday that is for sure.”

After the Ryan Morgan try which put Saints 22-20 ahead, everything that could have gone wrong, probably did, but Mark Percival’s missed conversion and the team’s failure to re-gather from the restart were secondary to conceding the penalty at the death.

Holbrook explained: “The goalkick - like all the others - was difficult. Even after that try there was two minutes, so they were always going to do a short kick off which is a lottery.

“We had to get that ball back, but didn’t.

“How we defended that try line was outstanding because I was really worried. When they kicked it straight to Benny I was relieved because I thought ‘that’s it, we’ve won’.

“Had we not given that penalty away then the other things would have not come into play.

“I am not sure why Ryan did it, and he obviously felt bad about it apologised for the penalty.

“Benny did a fantastic job to position himself where he did and I thought the kick was really poor.

“Morgs will be unhappy with that, he shouldn’t have touched him and unfortunately for us it was awarded a penalty.”

Saints’ other centre Mark Percival appeared to be blaming himself after missing four from five conversion attempts, but Holbrook did not join in the criticism.

But like all the other players dealing with seeing their hopes of treading the turf at the Theatre of Dreams dashed, Percival will have to deal with it in his own way – and hopefully an England World Cup call could be the tonic he needs.

“Percy is his own harshest critic, but I am not blaming goal kicking for the loss,” he said.

“We led with a minute and a half to go. Sure, I’d have loved him to have kicked a few.

“People will deal with the loss and its effects differently.

“I am doing all the individual player reviews and will see how each one is responding to it.

“Everyone handles it differently.

“Some know they have tried their hardest and will move on pretty quickly, others will dwell on things for a few months, which is hard.

“Everyone will get over it in different stages.

“This week I have had all the players in, discussing a few things on the season and their form and what we expect next season.

“That helps bring a bit of closure and to chat one-to-one to see how are they are feeling and seeing what they are going to be up to, whether that is World Cup or holiday.

“It helps me, too.

“It is hard to jump to positives at first because I am still trying to get over the loss. Although people are saying there are great signs for next year, I thought we were good enough to win it this year.

“It is still too early to look ahead in that sense as I am still hurting from Thursday.

“I took a lot of pride in the way we finished and to finish with the best defence in the comp shows that we are working hard for each other.

“Our attack did improve as the year went on. We didn’t go to Castleford to try and outplay them, but we actually did that and scored five tries to three and looked more dangerous than they did.

“The positives are that we are in a good position.”

There is plenty to work on, before Super League kicks off in February, and he has sent a message to those experienced first team players, like Kyle Amor and Adam Swift, who missed out on selection towards the back end of the campaign.

“I expect them to work really hard in pre-season and fight to regain their spot. There were some unlucky guys at the end of the season, who missed out on some big games.

“Matty Smith missed a few, Kyle and Swifty did too which shows some quality in our playing group.

“Our squad is in a good place, we have had to fix a few things up which we have done.

“Everyone will be expected to fight for their spot next season.

“It is hard at the moment but it will good when they get back into training and next year can’t come quickly enough “It was not that long ago that I was saying it was ridiculous that we start the season so early, but the minute we got bundled out of the semi last week I said it can’t come around quickly enough.”

It is probably the same for the fans, who for the third year in a row saw the season end without silverware with a narrow Super League semi-final exit.

He praised those fans’ reactions on the night and in the following days, whose positive approach and sense of optimism in the immediate cold light of Friday morning, did much to stop the club descending into a spiral of despair.

“I thought the fans’ reaction after the game was a good indication of the mood.

“Castleford is a difficult place to get to and get out of, so to have them stay to acknowledge the players and how they played was good to see.

“It was a big effort for them to get there on a Thursday night. And to stick around though we had lost. It is always easy to stay when we have won.

“From the short time I have been here I know how much rugby league means to the people of the town.

“I will always see that as a positive. Our game is a small game so to have so many people that interested in it, is an awesome thing.”