THEY may be in direct competition for a spot in the Warrington Wolves side, but Stefan Ratchford has taken Matty Ashton under his wing.

Indeed, he believes the youngster, who has made an explosive start to his Wire career since signing from Swinton Lions ahead of this season, can go to the very top of rugby league.

Having played at the top level for 13 years and represented his country, Ratchford certainly knows what it takes to perform at the elite level.

He believes Ashton’s willingness to learn and take advice on board will stand him in good stead.

“Matty’s pretty special,” the 32-year-old said.

“I don’t think I’ve played with anyone quicker than him – I think him and Kevin Penny would probably be neck-and-neck.

“He’s still raw and has a lot to learn but if you look at where he is now with a lot of progression ahead, he will get to the top of the game.

“Some of the performances he has come up with have been unbelievable.

“I try and give him a few pointers. The good thing about him is that he’s not afraid to ask questions.

“He’s young and he’s keen to learn and take advice on board – not just from myself but from coaches and other players as well.

“If he keeps doing that, the sky’s the limit for him.”

Ashton burst onto the scene at full-back in the first two games of 2020 when regular number one Ratchford moved into the halves to cover Gareth Widdop’s injury.

A serious hamstring injury was set to sideline the 22-year-old for large swathes of the campaign, but the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown of Super League meant he only missed three matches.

In the extraordinary circumstances The Wire found themselves in prior to last week’s game against Hull FC, the ever-versatile Ratchford stepped up to play loose forward while Ashton slotted back in at full-back to score a try in the 37-12 win.

Warrington Guardian:

Stefan Ratchford in action against Hull FC. Picture by

Ratchford had not started a game in that position for five years, but he saw it as a personal challenge.

“Last week was just one of those weeks,” he said.

“There were extraordinary circumstances with what happened in the days leading up to the game.

“It was a case of backs were against the wall and people needed to stand up and do their job, whichever role they were asked to do.”

When asked what it is about him that aids his versatility, he replied: “I think its just wanting to win and doing whatever it takes to do that.

“If that means playing here, there and everywhere to make sure we have the best chance of winning, I’m happy to do it.

“When I’m watching videos, I’ll take a few notes on how a loose forward, centre or others play just to give myself a bit of a head start.”

After impressing enough to pick up three Steve Prescott Man of Steel points at the back of the pack and with Ashton continuing to impress, does he envisage the move becoming more permanent?

“Not if it’s 51 tackles every week,” he joked.

“It’s good to be tied down to one position but I consider myself lucky to have got the chance to play in a few.

“I like stepping up to the task and seeing if I’m good enough to play at loose forward, centre or wherever I’m asked to play.

“I’m one of those people that regardless of where I’m put, I’m happy to do a job for the team and there’s a few players who are the same.”

That “team first” mentality will mean the victory will mean more to Ratchford than any personal accolades picked up, but he did also pass the milestone of 1,000 points in a Warrington shirt – something only 10 other players have managed.

With a new contract signed earlier this year to keep him at the club until 2022, there is the chance to move even further up the club’s all-time point-scoring list.

“I didn’t realise I was that close, but it’s obviously a very proud moment,” he said.

“I think there’s only 10 people who have made that milestone. I don’t know which is more surprising – that or me making 51 tackles!

“Hopefully there will be many more to come.”