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Tony Smith sees big year ahead of Gareth O'Brien after Boxing Day showing
Gareth O'Brien hopes to challenge Richie Myler and Lee Briers for a place in Warrington Wolves' first team
GARETH O’Brien has pledged to regain his place in Wolves’ first team after making a successful return in the 30-22 win against Widnes Vikings.
Leading Wolves around the Stobart Stadium from half back alongside fellow Academy graduate James Mendeika, O’Brien impressed in his first outing since suffering a dislocated shoulder in the under 20s game against St Helens last August.
And having made an impact in Super League with both Warrington Wolves and Widnes Vikings last year, the 21-year-old has his eyes fixed on a battle with the likes of Lee Briers and Richie Myler for a role in Tony Smith’s side.
He made 18 first-team appearances in 2012, 14 of those with Wolves after a successful loan spell with Vikings in March.
“I have got Briersy and Richie Myler in front of me, two quality players, but I am trying to stamp out a place for myself in the squad,” he said.
“I have just got to train hard and keep them on their toes, but my shoulder felt strong against Widnes and I am looking forward to the season now.
“It was my first game back after quite a while out and though I was a bit rusty in some areas I’m sure I will sharpen up a bit over the next few months of training.”
While a return to Wolves’ Super League side is the half back’s goal, the former Great Sankey High School pupil is ready to accept a place in the team of Wolves’ Championship partner Swinton Lions if Smith sees fit to send him out on dual registration.
With the under 20s now disbanded, the options for rising talent not selected for a Super League game are shrinking and he accepts that it may be necessary at times to take a step down to the second tier of British rugby league in order to get a regular hit-out.
“I am not sure about how I will link with the Lions, that will be up to Tony,” he said.
“Whether us younger guys have a game with Swinton or we are in his squad is totally up to him and I will give 110 percent wherever I am asked to play.
“I will be training as hard as I can to make it into Tony’s first-team squad but if he feels I’m needed at Swinton then so be it. I would be more than happy to help them out and push forward.”
Smith saw enough encouraging signs to suggest a big year could be on the cards for the young playmaker.
“Gareth directed play, kicked well and I thought he was really good for us,” said Wolves’ head of coaching and rugby.
“He is looking for a big year and hopefully an injury-free one. He has had a few disruptions over the last two seasons but hopefully he’ll get through this season unscathed.
“He has handled the recovery well. He looked good and he looked sharp out there.”
n Jack Morrison is currently the only Wolves player confirmed on dual registration terms with Swinton.