TRAINING alongside the NRL’s biggest stars will not distract Stefan Ratchford and Warrington Wolves from preparing for a watershed Super League season.
Even working with NRL champions Sydney Roosters and their global superstar Sonny Bill Williams – as Wolves will do on Saturday following sessions with Manly Sea Eagles on Thursday, and St George Illawarra Dragons today, Friday – will not deter Ratchford and Wolves’ first-team squad from achieving their primary goal.
That is succeeding without the experienced men that have been stalwarts of primrose and blue glory in recent years – Lee Briers, Adrian Morley, Brett Hodgson and Garreth Carvell.
“It’s just a day’s work for us,” admitted 25-year-old utility back Ratchford, who looks set to step into the stand-off gap left by Lee Briers in 2014.
“Someone like Sonny Bill Williams, we’re all aware of his stature and we might be a bit in awe of him but we’re not here to collect autographs and swap T-shirts.
“We’re here to get a big pre-season in ahead of what will be a massive year for Warrington Wolves.”
Australia’s rugby league environment and summer conditions give Wolves’ coaches and squadmen the best opportunity for learning to adapt to their new playing personnel.
Having taken up the number six shirt vacated by Briers at the end of last year, Ratchford will be unlikely to avoid comparisons to Wolves’ most renowned player of the Super League era.
But the former Salford City Reds man and England Knights international feels no pressure and has no intention to become the ‘new Lee Briers’.
“We don’t feel the pressure to fill the shoes of the likes of Briers and Morley,” said Ratchford, who is back in full training after months of rehabilitation for an ankle operation that was needed to reattach the ligament connecting his tibia and fibula.
“In one of the first interviews I did after I was given the number six shirt, the bloke asked me whether I was going to be the new Lee Briers. That could never happen, because me and Lee are totally different players.
“If people ask, is Chris Hill going to be the new Adrian Morley? The answer is no, he’s Chris Hill and that’s who he is going to play like.
“So I don’t think we feel the pressure of stepping up to fill the shoes of those who have left, but we do feel the pressure to step up our own game and improve into important players in our own right.”
Ratchford is excited ahead of a campaign he describes as ‘a big one’ for a number of players in the squad.
“It is a big year for me, taking that bit more responsibility for the team and a big year for a few of the other players too,” he added.
“First and foremost I have the number six shirt and I have to try and make sure I play as well as I can to get the team around the park.
“So yes, it’s a big year, but it is also an exciting one as well, because we have a younger squad now and we have to see how we cope with losing those players.”