Russell aiming to make big impact
Matthew Russell will be looking to start with Warrington Wolves where he left off with Scotland when he makes his debut for the Super League title favourites in 2014.
The 20-year-old former Wigan Warriors junior, who has played almost as many matches in the World Cup as in Super League, was a virtual unknown when he signed for the Wolves in October.
Russell spent the whole of 2013 playing for Gold Coast Titans' reserves after failing to break into their NRL team, but he quickly got Warrington fans all excited with his dashing World Cup displays that helped the Bravehearts reach the quarter-finals and earn a meeting with New Zealand at Headingley.
"I'm excited about Matty coming back to the UK," Warrington coach Tony Smith had said at the time of the signing. "I think he'll come back a much better player than when he left - and he was already a very good player."
Smith's words were prophetic. Russell scored four tries and came up with a remarkable 22 tackle busts in group matches against Tonga, Italy and the United States to make his decision to hand him a two-year contract look a pretty shrewd move.
"He's like a pinball machine, you just can't tackle him," said Scotland coach Steve McCormack. "He's got that ability to bounce off players. He was a revelation for us."
Russell might have been wearing the number one jersey for Wigan in 2014 instead of arch-rivals Warrington had he showed more patience during his time at the DW Stadium.
He was a product of Wigan's youth system after moving to the town from Scotland as a youngster but found a certain Sam Tomkins standing in his way of a Super League career.
He made just two appearances as Tomkins' understudy and another six while on loan to Hull FC in 2012 before taking the bold decision to try his luck in Australia.
Tomkins, of course, has now left Wigan for the NRL but Russell says he has no regrets over his decision to quit the club.
"I used to love it at Wigan," he said. "I spent most of my junior years there and got really close with a lot of the boys.
"I left for my own reasons. I thought I had a better opportunity.
"I never knew if Sam was going. There was talk that he would go to union so I hung around that year.
"People urged me to stay but I think I made the right move at the time. It's good to get back to Super League now with Warrington.
"I'm back in Wigan with my mum but I might move out with one of my mates, maybe a bit closer to Warrington."
Russell had another year left on his contract with the Titans but admits he became homesick towards the end of his first season on the Gold Coast.
"I'm used to having a big group of friends but over there were a lot of young couples in the squad with kids and stuff," he said. "I also missed my family.
"In the last few months there I thought if I could get a chance at a club I'd come back but I wouldn't sign for anybody.
"I was still under contract so I couldn't really speak to anyone. It was only when I came back, my agent spoke to a few clubs. Warrington were pretty keen so I was happy."
If Russell got his timing all wrong when he left Wigan, he must have felt fate had repaid him when, within three weeks of him signing for Warrington, Lee Briers announced his retirement, thus paving the way for Stefan Ratchford to make the move to stand-off.
Brett Hodgson's old number one jersey, which looked to be going to Ratchford, was instead handed to Russell when the Wolves announced their squad numbers, although the Scot is not taking anything for granted.
"I'm not thinking about that," he said. "I'll be happy to have a good pre-season and see what happens in the friendlies and then see what Tony Smith thinks. I'll be happy just to get a few games, that would be good for me."