As he aims to win his first piece of major silverware this weekend at Wembley, Warrington half-back Kevin Brown has revealed just how far below the standards he expected the Wolves were before Steve Price rejuvenated the club this year.
Brown joined Warrington at the start of last season, with the club having come narrowly close to becoming Super League champions for the first time at the end of the 2016 campaign.
However, the 33-year-old found himself in an unlikely battle against relegation in the Qualifiers before Price took over from Tony Smith at the beginning of this season.
And, with only Catalans standing between helping Brown and silverware for the first time in his career, he admitted to League Express: “I couldn’t believe the state of the club given how close it was to becoming champions the season before.
“It was frightening in regards to standards and how far they’d slipped – it was an eye-opener. It wasn’t a happy time but things got so bad, they simply had to change. Now we’ve got expectations across the club from the playing staff through to the off-field staff, we’re in it together.
“It just wasn’t a nice place to be last year and coming in from the outside, it was surprising to me. Change freshens it up – Kevin Sinfield is probably doing the same at Leeds now, and that’s what Pricey and Andrew Henderson have done. There’s no secret, we’ve just worked hard together.
“What we have got is a team-first mentality now; things like time-keeping, punctuciality.. they weren’t top of the agenda last year. I always believe you work as a team but we didn’t have anything like that last year.
“Anyone who says we did is kidding themselves. Steve demands that from us and because it’s taken time to change it, I can 100 per cent testify to the state of the club now.”
Brown grew up a boyhood Wigan fan and made the journey to Wembley on numerous occasions to watch the Warriors in the sport’s most prestigious event, and he admits it is a competition he still regards higher than any other.
“The Challenge Cup has been there much longer than the Grand Final,” he said.
“The people who’ve won it, the history.. for me, it’s still a standalone thing and we should never try and downplay it. We should talk up how good this trophy is and how good peoples’ lives become because of it.”
Brown also admits that, having stated his reasoning to join the Wolves from local rivals Widnes was to win silverware, it is exciting to be within 80 minutes of achieving that goal on Saturday afternoon.
“Rather than sulking and thinking it wasn’t my year.. I just played for the team and worked at the job at hand,” he said of 2017.
“Widnes fans threw stick my way because we were in the Qualifiers – but I said I was going to Warrington to win something, I didn’t say I was going there to win something in the first year.
“Hopefully it’s this year we do that, but the group have given themselves a chance and we didn’t really ever have a chance at Widnes.”