THIS time last year, Matty Ashton was gearing up for another season at amateur level.

His 2019 pre-season was spent gearing up to play for hometown club Rochdale Mayfield having returned from a year in Australia.

What a difference 12 months makes – now he is preparing as part of a Warrington Wolves squad aiming for the big prizes again.

Ashton is flying, too, arriving as the Championship’s top tryscorer and young player of the year after a stellar breakout season with Swinton Lions.

It is his first taste of life at a professional club but the 21-year-old is far from overawed.

Indeed, he is all business. When asked if he thought he was ready for Super League, his answer was immediate.

“100 per cent. Now is my time,” he said.

“Now I’ve had a full pre-season under my belt, I want to show everyone what I can do.

“I wouldn’t have signed if I thought I was just going to play reserves every week.

“Obviously, the full-time environment will help me improve regardless, but I don’t want to hang about.

“I want to make it to the top and that’s why I’m here.”

Warrington Guardian:

Matty Ashton at November's kit launch. Picture by Mike Boden

While he may only be in his early twenties, Ashton can definitely be described as a late bloomer in terms of arriving into a top-flight environment.

At Mayfield, he was in the same age group as St Helens prop Matty Lees while another Saints forward in Jack Ashworth came through a few years’ previous.

However, while Lees and others were snapped up by academies, Ashton was left behind. If he was to make it to the top, he would have to do it the hard way.

Followers of Warrington’s amateur rugby league circuit may recall the flyer’s man-of-the-match display for Mayfield in a Challenge Cup first round win over Crosfields that was streamed live on the BBC website.

That proved his final game for the Rochdale side before his journey took him to the other side of the world – more specifically, a year playing in Australia for Mullumbimby Giants on the border between Queensland and New South Wales.

From the yellow and blue formerly worn by the likes of Jacob Miller and Dane Chisolm, Ashton’s journey to the primrose and blue of Warrington began in earnest.

Swinton picked him up on his return to England and a stunning Championship season followed.

With 30 second-tier tries to his name at a record better than one per game, his big chance came.

“I never thought this would happen. It was always a dream but I thought I’d missed my chance,” Ashton said.

“I’d gone past the age where my mates were getting picked up by academies and I was left behind.

“I’ve never stopped trying to succeed and hopefully I can kick on now.

“Hopefully I can be an example to guys my age who are at amateur clubs.

“There’s a bit of luck involved but when your chance is given to you, you’ve got to take it.

“If I wasn’t here, I’d still be at Mayfield and I’d be enjoying my rugby just as much.”

His ability to cover a multitude of positions across the back line will no doubt endear him to Steve Price while also bringing a reminder of Stefan Ratchford, himself a pillar of versatility.

From admiring him as a youngster, Ashton will now be in direct competition with The Wire’s tried and tested number one for a place in the team.

At the very least, though, he believes it will be a learning curve.

“Stef’s one of the best full-backs in Super League. I’ve grown up watching and admiring players like him since I was a kid,” he said.

“To be training and hopefully playing alongside him now means I can only learn from him.

“These players have played at the top level for years, not just in Super League but internationally too.

“If I’m working with them every day, it’s only going to make me improve.”