After committing his future to the Warrington Wolves, Josh McGuire was plagued by plenty of sleepless nights shortly after the ink had dried on his two-year contract.
The former Australia and Queensland representative found himself helplessly watching on from afar as the club flirted with relegation from the Super League, only to survive by the skin of their teeth as Toulouse Olympique went down instead.
“I was up at 3am every week watching the games in Australia going, ‘Please don’t get relegated, please don’t get relegated’. I was sending messages, ‘What happens if we get relegated?’” McGuire revealed, while appearing at a fan forum on The official Warrington Wolves podcast.
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The veteran forward signed his contract halfway through the year and then had to ride out the final nail-biting matches before Warrington’s place in the league was assured during a dismal campaign that was their worst in over three decades.
In an effort to arrest their shock slump, Warrington went on a signing spree. They recruited McGuire along with Paul Vaughan and Sam Kasiano to strengthen their pack, while a renewed focus on their defence was called for from coach Daryl Powell during the pre-season.
“It’s no secret last year we really struggled with the defensive side of things,” McGuire said.
“In the NRL, we’re a little bit protected by the RLPA [Rugby League Players’ Association] now where you’re only allowed to do one tackling session per week as they try to protect the players. But I got home after my first week here and we’d had six!
“My wife goes, ‘How are you feeling?’ And I went, ‘Bloody sore’, but it’s been fantastic.”
McGuire had a chance to bypass all the blood, sweat and tears from the initial weeks of pre-season after he was selected in Samoa’s side for the Rugby League World Cup.
However, the firebrand elected to forgo that opportunity in favour of flying over to the UK and establishing a solid base in his new hometown.
“I was going to play the World Cup with Samoa,” he told the Warrington Guardian.
“I talked with Powelly and Karl (Fitzpatrick, chief executive) about it, we discussed it and decided it was best for me to come straight over and hit the ground running in pre-season.
“If I did play in the World Cup, I wouldn’t have been here until January. I would have missed the chance to build these relationships with the boys.”
Samoa went on a dream run in the tournament which concluded with a historic first appearance in the final, yet McGuire – who played seven times for the nation – didn’t regret missing the ride after previously winning the trophy with the Kangaroos.
“I’d tasted the experience with Australia in 2017 so at no point was I sitting back thinking I wish I’d have played. This move was too important to me,” McGuire insisted.
“I get a solid couple of months and it’s crucial for me as a middle link player.”
Despite having only been at the club for a few weeks, the forward has already found himself noticing differences in player behaviour and approach to what he has been used to in the NRL.
“I’m super impressed with the work ethic,” he stated. “It’s quite refreshing that the kids here are so hungry to learn.
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“Back in the NRL, the kids’ skill levels are through the roof but a lot of them have been told how good they are for their whole lives.
“Here, they’re grafters who are appreciative of what they have and are eager to learn. The skill levels haven’t had the opportunity to develop yet but their work ethic is so refreshing.”
McGuire will be expected to lead from the front and use every ounce of his experience to get Warrington back into the frame of title challengers once again and is happy to accept the responsibility while proving himself in the UK.
“If you’re an Aussie coming over here, especially when you’re in your thirties, there’s a stigma about whether or not you’re here for the right reasons,” he said.
“The only way you can change that is what you do on the field and in the standards you drive in training.
“I knew what I signed up for – I knew I wasn’t coming here for beaches and nice weather.”