GARETH O’Brien knows that 2014 is a season that could make or break his Warrington Wolves career.
Having spent much of 2013 sniffing around the edges of Wolves’ first team and impressing sets of fans from St Helens, Castleford and Swinton Lions during three short-term loan spells, now could be the opportunity for the 22-year-old to step in to the void left by Lee Briers’ departure.
The thought has certainly crossed his mind.
“I would say this year is a big one for my Wolves career,” he admitted.
“Now is my chance to make this starting place mine.
“I had a disappointing year last year in terms of selection here and I had to take opportunities to play elsewhere.
“But we have lost a lot of experience this year, so I have got to take that responsibility now and if Tony puts me in the squad then I’ve got to perform, be strong defensively and organise our boys around the field.”
Living in the shadow of one of Wolves’ greatest players is not easy, particularly for a young half back looking to make his own mark on the club’s history.
But O’Brien has revealed that while Briers is still making his influence felt, he is also doing what he can to help O’Brien take up his mantle.
“Briersy is still involved, we have done a fair few sessions with him, kicking wise,” said O’Brien.
“I don’t put pressure on myself to be ‘filling his shoes’, I am just looking to improve my own game and contribute towards us being the best we can be.
“He told me to come to him any time I wanted some advice or guidance and I most definitely will take him up on that.”
Whether it is Briers’ influence or not, O’Brien’s kicking game against Leeds offered Wolves something they had sorely lacked in round one.
It was an area in which Smith was desperate for improvement and O’Brien believes it is a skill which will help him keep his place, particularly if he can cause Hull FC problems on Sunday.
“It is a big part of our focus in these early season games, when the weather and conditions mean that the kicking game comes into it a lot more,” he said.
“Tony put the responsibility on me to take charge of that, linking up with Richie a bit more and organising kicks.
“We’re looking to do that again on Sunday and hopefully we can get our first win off the back of it.”