TO many Warrington Wolves fans, Blake Austin is already a hero.

Replica shirts with his name and number emblazoned on the back were seemingly a popular Christmas present for Wire supporters young and old.

It is not something that has escaped the notice of the man himself.

> OPINION: Time to enjoy the ride, Wire fans!

With that adulation, however, comes expectation. Once the season gets underway, all eyes will be on him to deliver.

“I can’t promise that every game is going to be perfect or that every play will work out, but I’ll try my backside off,” he said.

“I’ve got some pretty good ideas about what’s going to work over here and I can’t wait to get out onto the field and try them.

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Pictures by Mike Boden

“If I can inspire kids by doing that, that’s great.

“I know some players can get disappointed at the start of the season when they are handed a higher number but coming from Australia, I think it’s a huge thrill.

“Not just people wearing your jersey but to come into the sheds and see your jersey hanging with your name on it. I think it’s outstanding.

“To have kids pick my name to go on their jumper is certainly humbling and a pretty big thrill as well.”

Austin is a marquee signing not just for The Wire but for Super League as a whole.

If fans from rival clubs were asked which new NRL imports they are looking forward to watching in 2019, he would feature highly on that list.

It is those of a primrose and blue persuasion he is focused on entertaining, however, and he has been hard at work with his new teammates over the past two months to make sure that happens.

“I’ve learned that we’re a really tight-knit group,” he said.

“There’s a few different characters within the squad but we all get on really well.

“There’s that underlying common goal for us all of winning a trophy for the people of Warrington.

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“I’m really enjoying my role in the squad. There’s a lot of guys who will listen intently and are happy to do as you ask and there’s the leaders who are really good to work with too.

“We’ve got a really good balance of soldiers and generals. It’s going to make for some good footy.”

A lack of potency in the halves was what many observers pointed to as Wire players lay slumped on the turf after defeats at Wembley and Old Trafford last year.

With that in mind, Austin’s link-up with Kevin Brown would have been closely scrutinised.

However, Brown was struck down last weekend when he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in training – ending his season before it had even begun.

With Gareth Widdop arriving next year, it looks to have signalled the end of his Warrington career as well.

The cruellest of blows for someone Austin has credited with being a key part of making the settling-in process easy for him so far.

“Kev’s a real good bloke. He’s made it pretty seamless for me,” he said.

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Kevin Brown congratulates Blake Austin on his try in the friendly against Widnes Vikings on January 20. Picture: Mike Boden

“To have him here from day one has been really important, even though we were missing the England boys.

“We had Tommy Lineham in our unit at the training camp in Portugal.

“He said he’s not a rugby guy. He’s just a big, strong guy who can catch the ball and put it down!

“He had to ask us to stop talking so much footy in the room!

“We’re both similar personalities. We both love the game of rugby league.”

For anyone moving to a different country, let alone one on the other side of the world in the middle of winter, the happiness of family is paramount.

Austin made the big switch to England with partner Gillian, son Carter and daughters Nahlaa, Wynter and Remi in tow.

They arrived in time for the first day of pre-season training and spent the Christmas period enjoying their new surroundings and settling the children down into their new schools.

Adjusting to a new culture is difficult for everyone, but Austin says his loved ones are handling it admirably even if he is finding certain things ‘surreal’.

“It’s a very easy place to live,” he said.

“We’re not far from Stockton Heath so we’re enjoying life round there.

“The kids are enjoying school better than I could have dreamt of.

“We’re in a nice house out in Appleton which makes it easy for the missus to be comfy with the four kids.

“Even going to Portugal was surreal for me. It was just a tiny place on a map far away for me growing up.

“To jump on a plane and be there in two hours – I couldn’t quite get my head around it.

“It all reaffirmed the reasons for coming over here.”

Speaking of adapting to a new culture, Austin has also decided to pick up on another sport dear to the hearts of people in northern England.

“Once I signed, I gathered I’d have to pick a football team. I’m not a football tragic or anything like that,” he said.

“I had a few mates from back home who support Liverpool and I knew they sung their song around the stadium before the game.

“That is my kind of thing so I thought I’d love to go and be a part of that.

“Most of the boys are Manchester City fans but I’m told you’re accused of being a bit more of a bandwaggoner if you support them!

“I went to the Manchester City-Liverpool game, which was a great experience for a kid from western Sydney.”