FORMER England rugby union international Luther Burrell admits he struggled in his early days in league but, as he prepares to kick off his first full Super League campaign with Warrington, says he is now “miles ahead” in his efforts to make the switch successful.
The former Northampton centre comes from a league background in Huddersfield but spent nearly 13 years immersed in the 15-man code until joining the Wolves last summer and made just three appearances in four months.
I’m a bit of a rugby nerd and watched all my games a couple of times over. I was unaware of certain rules, especially around the ruck so I got pinged a couple of times.Luther Burrell
“It was always going to be challenging in terms of coming into a group of players who were already settled and 25 games into the season,” he said.
“I’m a bit of a rugby nerd and watched all my games a couple of times over. I was unaware of certain rules, especially around the ruck so I got pinged a couple of times.
“I’m miles ahead now than I was then, I know that much. I don’t want to say I was disappointed but I’d like to say I can offer more now than I could then.”
Burrell is hoping a full, rigorous pre-season, in which he shed nearly six kilos in weight, will help him make his mark this year and says playing in the new reserve competition is not among his plans.
“I don’t want to be playing reserve rugby, that’s not what I’m here for,” he said. “I’m an international rugby player and I’ve pretty much done my time at that level.
“I honestly feel, given a good enough run and an opportunity, I’ll be able to push on.”
Warrington coach Steve Price is equally confident in Burrell’s future as he weighs up whether to include him in his team for the opening game of Super League XXV at Wigan on Thursday night.
“It was difficult for the big fella, coming from union straight in,” Price said.
“At the time I did say it would take a little bit of time but, now with a full pre-season under his belt, he’s been flying.
“He’s dropped a huge amount of weight, dropped his skin folds and has a better understanding of the game in terms of decision-making and space awareness defensively.”
“Luther can be really pleased with where he is at at the moment.”
Burrell could by vying with new signing Anthony Gelling for the vacant centre berth against Wigan but has also been training in the second row and is hoping his versatility can weigh in his favour.
“I’ve been switching it up,” he said. “I think I offer versatility in both positions.
“This team is strong in the centre and back row and I’ve got to keep my ear to the ground and pick up as much as I can as quick as I can and keeping knocking on the boss’ door to give me a crack.”