Widdop’s return just in time

Gareth Widdop admits the opportunity to come home before it was too late, as well as the desire to deliver a first Super League title to Warrington, is what convinced him to join the Wolves in 2020.

Widdop is one of the biggest new signings in the competition this year, with the England international agreeing a big-money deal to join Steve Price’s side for the next three seasons.

And the 30-year-old, who was raised in England before moving to Australia as a teenager, said he didn’t want to leave it too late to make his mark in the competition he grew up dreaming of playing in.

“It was always my intention to come back at some point,” he said.

“I was born and raised here and wanted to play Super League as a kid. So I always wanted to return and play here at some point.

“You never quite know when the time is right, but I just felt that at this stage of my career that it was. I didn’t want to come over when I was 34, old and busted. I wanted to come and have some success.

“I’ve been away for twelve years and my wife and kids are all Australian, so that’s home to them.

“It’s a strange feeling and I’m still getting used to being back home. It will take a couple of months to fully settle in, as it’s very different to being in Australia, but that was part of the challenge in coming.”

His preparations for the new season have already suffered a setback, however, with Widdop unlikely to feature in the opening month of the season after sustaining an ankle injury in training.

“It’s not ideal but I’m just going to crack on with my rehab and try and get back as soon as possible,” he said.

“It’s a fresh injury but it’s looking like round four for my return.

“I just need to get it right. I had a bump with Great Britain but I was fine coming into pre-season and was getting used to the muddy fields and learning the calls.”

Widdop also has one eye on his roots in Australia too, as his family home is perilously close to being damaged by the bush fires that are ravaging the country.

“It was pretty scary and I’m still pretty worried because it was quite close to where I live down on the south coast,” he said.

“A couple of weeks before we moved out, we weren’t really allowed to get out and about. The smoke was horrendous and it seems to not be easing up. The fires are only half-an-hour from where I live.

“I’ve got a few friends and family down on the south coast who have been affected in Ulladulla. It’s quite frightening, so hopefully we can get some rain and it will stop.”