LAST August, Gareth Widdop had just watched his future Warrington Wolves teammates lift the Challenge Cup.

That alone will have been enough to get the juices flowing about his move to England – the walk up the famous Wembley steps to lift the prestigious trophy would inspire any player.

However, it was what happened two days later as the team returned to Warrington that really made it hit home.

As tens of thousands hit the streets to salute their heroes, the pictures got back to Widdop Down Under.

At that moment, it all felt real.

“Seeing how many people came out for the Challenge Cup parade was one of the best things I’ve seen,” he said.

“Being over in Australia and seeing those pictures made me want to be a part of it even more.

“That’s something we’re all driving for and hopefully it will happen this year.

“This is a one-club town and I’m looking forward to seeing that side of it.

“I was straight off the plane and into training so I haven’t had chance to soak much of it up, but once games start it will go up a few notches.

“When I do get a bit of time, I will be around Warrington plenty and mixing in with the fans. I’m really looking forward to getting out and playing for them.”

Warrington Guardian:

Gareth Widdop in training. Picture by Mike Boden

Now, he is finally ready to take the field – well over a year since his move to The Wire was confirmed.

With a full season still to play with St George Illawarra Dragons, there was time aplenty to sort the logistics of moving himself, wife Carley and children Brayden, Harper and Willow to England – a country he calls home.

His adult life may have been spent on the other side of the world, but Widdop is a Yorkshireman at heart.

Despite his years of success in the NRL to make himself one of its most in-demand players, his career was only ever going to end one way.

“I didn’t want to be coming over on my last legs at 33 or 34. I wanted to be in Super League while I’m still in my prime and fit and healthy,” he said.

“I just felt the time was right as my kids are the right age to come and experience it.

“I want to be part of winning a Grand Final with Warrington – they’ve just fallen short a couple of times so that was a big reason.

“I always knew I was going to come home, I just wasn’t sure when. I wanted to embrace that change of lifestyle with my family.

“As rugby league players, we only have short careers and you need to make the most of it.

“If I didn’t come to play in Super League, I’d have kicked myself.”

If he comes through his debut to make next week's home game against Toronto Wolfpack, Widdop will step out onto the Halliwell Jones Stadium turf in front of thousands of adoring fans.

If he helps bring The Wire that maiden Super League title they crave, they will idolise him even more.

Win or lose, though, there are two people whose support he will always be able to count on.

“I’m very close to my grandparents,” he explained.

“They’re getting a bit older now so I wanted to come back and be close to them for a while.”

A move back to his native Halifax for the Widdop clan, then?

“I would have liked to have lived over that way but I think the travelling to training would have been a little bit difficult so we’ve set up around Manchester,” he explained.

“It’s not too bad – everywhere in England is close compared to living in Australia.

“The boys complain about travelling 20 minutes – try going 120 minutes to get petrol!”

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Ultimately, though, this is strictly business for Widdop and his business is taking this Warrington Wolves team to the next level.

If he is to help them achieve that, his partnership with Blake Austin will be absolutely critical.

On paper at least, it is one that gets the mouth watering – Wolves chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick even called it world rugby league’s best half-back pairing.

That brings its own pressures and that is not lost on Widdop – not that it is anything new for him.

“You’re always going to have external pressures. I’ve played in the NRL long enough to know that,” he said.

“I can’t control it – all I can control is what I do and people will have their opinions regardless, good or bad.

“I want to leave having been part of a successful Warrington Wolves team rather than being known as an individual.

“I don’t want to leave having been a failure and I’ll be doing everything possible to avoid that happening.

“Blake’s a good player who I’ve played against a number of times. He obviously came over last year and made a real success of it.

“I’m looking forward to lining up with him and he’s going to help me a lot.

“He knows the difference between the two games so it will be good to work closely with him.

“When you play against him, you know you have to be on your toes because he’s such a dangerous runner of the ball.

“Once I knew he was here and that I’d be in a partnership with him, it made my decision a lot easier.”

Warrington Guardian:

Widdop's half-back partnership with Blake Austin is a tantalising prospect for Wire fans. Picture by Mike Boden

Known as a supreme organiser with excellent kicking both from hand and off the tee, the theory is that Widdop will steer the team around the pitch to free up Austin to do what he does best – run the ball and cause chaos.

However, do not count a man with 28 England caps out of sprinkling a little magic dust of his own.

“I’d like to think it won’t be as simple as ‘I’ll do this, you do that,’” he said.

“We are similar players I think.

“His go-to is obviously his strong running game and if I can bring a bit more organisation to free him up a little, great.”

If his relationship with Austin both on and off the field is starting from a blank canvas, there is plenty about the Wire squad that is familiar to Widdop.

His extensive involvements with England means much of the squad have spent weeks in camp around him.

It is also not the first time Widdop has been signed by Steve Price, for he was the man who brought him to St George Illawarra Dragons from Melbourne Storm ahead of the 2014 season.

Their partnership was short-lived as Price left the club partway through that season but Widdop believes he got a raw deal.

“He took over as a rookie coach and the team we had wasn’t the best. He was left a bit of a shambles, to be honest,” he said.

“He’s obviously gone on to play a part in Premiership-winning teams before coming over here and making a good job of it.

“Seeing the difference in him is something that should be really interesting and I’m looking forward to working alongside him.”

Warrington Guardian:

Steve Price brought Widdop to St George Illawarra during his spell as Dragons head coach. Picture by Mike Boden

He arrived at the Dragons with an NRL title under his belt and his 2012 Premiership win with Melbourne Storm remains his only championship.

In a career that has also seen him help England to a World Cup final and play in the reborn – if ultimately unsuccessful – Great Britain Lions team, where would helping Wolves break their Grand Final duck rank?

“It will definitely be up there. Winning a Grand Final is the pinnacle,” he said.

“We play to win trophies as it’s the best feeling and I’m here to do that.

“That’s why I came here – to be part of the team that brings that trophy to Warrington.

“It will take a lot of hard work and a bit of luck along the way, but I’ll be doing everything I can to make it happen.”