Huddersfield Giants winger Jermaine McGillvary knows just what to expect from Warrington Wolves’ cross-code recruit Luther Burrell – he played league with the former England rugby union international at school.
Warrington announced this week that they had signed the powerful 31-year-old in a high-profile move from Northampton Saints although, of course, he will not arrive until July after the end of the current union domestic season.
Clearly there is much interest in how rangy centre Burrell – who has won 15 Test caps and the Premiership – will adapt to the 13-man code so late in his career.
However, he hails from Huddersfield and has a league background, being on the Giants’ books at Under-15s level before moving to the town’s union side and then Leeds Carnegie.
England star McGillvary, who makes his return from injury against Warrington this evening, knows first-hand just what Burrell can do.
“We both went to All Saints (Catholic College) and were in the same class at school,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“He’s a good lad, from Lindley, and we’ve known each other years. Our school league team doubled as the union team as well and Luther was just ‘sick’.
“He could do everything and was definitely the best player in our year. We played together for the year above as well. At league he was a 13 – he was big, but fast as well, could kick and it was ridiculous what he could do.
“I’m really happy for him that he’s coming back. He was telling me three weeks ago he was coming to Super League.
“I was asking, ‘playing with me or against me?’ He wouldn’t tell me. It’s out there now, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s like when he joins up.
“Knowing him I’m sure he’ll get to grips with the speed of our game and I’m sure there’s no question he’ll be quality.
“I think his signing is great, not just for Luther but the sport as a whole – and our missuses are good mates, too.”
With England stand-off Gareth Widdop also arriving from the NRL next season on a marquee deal, Warrington are already looking in great shape for 2020.
However, McGillvary believes the 2019 side, who arrive at John Smith’s Stadium tonight with two wins from their opening two games, are already something special.
“They are the outstanding team,” said the 30-year-old.
“I’ve been doing the video work on them this week and I genuinely can’t find any fault in their side.
“Their line-speed is ridiculous, their attack is amazing and they have quality throughout.
“We really will have to give a ten out of ten performance to have a chance, they are that good.”
It is fortunate then that Huddersfield are able to welcome back a number of key personnel.
As well as McGillvary, stand-off Lee Gaskell and Tonga forward Ukuma Ta’ai also make their maiden appearances this term with Huddersfield seeking a first win after defeats to Salford Red Devils and in Perpignan.
The omens are good, though. Giants have won their last five home meetings against these opponents with the Wolves’ last victory at the John Smith’s Stadium coming five years ago.
McGillvary added: “A couple of weeks ago we had 10 first-team players out injured so the more we can get back the better.
“The quality of Gasky and Ukuma can lift us again. We know Warrington will be tough, but we’re stronger now and looking forward to the contest.
“For me it was really disappointing what happened that night at Wakefield.
“I didn’t prepare too well; the whole day was just a lot of stress and I ended up driving around all day beforehand.
“It was a cold day, a sloppy pitch so something was bound to happen. It’s been hard just watching on from the sidelines during these opening rounds and not being able to help.
“But I’ve trained well and am really excited about getting out there on Friday even though I know I’ll be blowing a bit.”
He also knows the next time Warrington visit he could be chasing his old schoolmate, too.