KEANAN Brand could be forgiven for taking a moment to pinch himself.

Having turned 21 earlier this month, the biggest step of his rugby league career has come at a very early stage.

With only one full season of first-team rugby under his belt, the big move many players spend their careers striving for has arrived.

Time is on his side with a three-year deal in his back pocket, but it is clear just from talking to him that the centre is in no mood to hang around.

First though, he has had to embed himself into an environment containing seasoned international players.

“I was talking to my Dad about the kind of players I’ve been training with here – the likes of Gaz Widdop, Blake Austin, Daz Clark and people like that,” he said.

“When you’re training, you just think of them as the lads. You’re competing with them and helping them along as much as they are to you.

“It’s only when you go home that it hits you about who you’re dealing with.

“They are the kind of players I looked up to when I was a kid.

“The training has been a lot harder than anything I’ve experienced before but I think it’s brought the best out of me.

“It has been a bit of an eye-opener having only just turned 21, but I’m glad I’ve made this change so early.”

Warrington Guardian:

Keanan Brand in training. Picture by Mike Boden

Rather than be a rabbit caught in the headlines, Brand has been getting his head down.

All the reports from the camp tell the story of a youngster trying desperately to make an impression and by all accounts, succeeding.

Indeed, Steve Price has name-checked him more than once when picking out top performers in pre-season.

It is clear he is riding the crest of a wave following a breakout year at Widnes Vikings – a season in which he was nominated for the Championship Young Player of the Year award only to lose out to his now teammate Matty Ashton.

He may have been earmarked as one for the future – Anthony Gelling, the man who made the move from Widnes at the same time as him, and Toby King are set to take the starting centre spots – but could he bring that bit of something different many believe The Wire are craving in the outside backs?

“I’ve come in and I’ve tried to work my hardest,” Brand said.

“I’m here for the long run, but I want to play this season. I’m not here to sit in the stands or play in the reserves – I want to be in the first team.

“I’m confident in myself and that’s something I’ve not really had in the past couple of years.

“Over the past year, though, I’ve grown the belief in myself that I can do it.

“I chose the right option by staying in the Championship and playing against men.

“Me and Gells are close – he’s like my Dad!

“He mentors me but I give him little pointers as well. We help each other out.

“We’re competing with each other but that’s the case with everyone in the team.”