Adam Keighran shrugs off slow start at Warriors to put hand up for round one

2019-03-03 02:38:39

They say first impressions last but, luckily for Warriors halves contender Adam Keighran, Stephen Kearney can be won over by hard work.

The coach has liked what he's seen from Keighran throughout pre-season. Although, the new recruit didn't exactly start off on the right foot at Mt Smart.

"He's got a game about him but when he first turned up I don't know if he thought it was a summer camp," Kearney said. "He didn't make a real good impression from a fitness point of view, to be honest.

"I don't know what he expected. I just don't think he realised what our expectation is here."

Thanks to a few eye-opening sessions under head trainer Alex Corvo, Keighran quickly found out what was required.

Fast-forward four months and the 21-year-old Australian could very well get the first shot at replacing Shaun Johnson when the Warriors open their 2019 campaign against the Bulldogs in two weeks' time.

"It's about 16 or 17 weeks now, and the progression has been really good," Keighran said after Saturday's 26-16 trial win over Wests Tigers in Whangarei. "The coaching staff is second to none, they teach you a lot of things each week. Definitely the fitness from Corvo has helped me there. He's a very tough man but it's been really good."

A former Bulldogs junior who played reserve grade for Penrith last year, Keighran has been locked in a battle with fellow rookie playmaker Chanel Harris-Tavita since Johnson's shock departure to the Sharks.

With the trials in the bag there appears to be little between the two. Both had their moments in the victories over the Storm and Tigers and Kearney on Saturday gave little away as to his preference.

Harris-Tavita has looked the more creative of the two, while teammates have praised Keighran's communication. His long kicking game is also a noted strength.

They had equal time against the Tigers but in what could be an indication for round one, Keighran started the match alongside the majority of the Warriors' first-choice side.

"It was a good hit out. We obviously got the win but it was just good to get out there with a lot of the leaders," he added. "Last week (against Melbourne), us inexperienced boys got out there but to get the leaders out there and run us around, it was a good feeling.

"They made me feel really comfortable. So I'm just building that confidence."

Keighran spent all of last season in the centres, where he made the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Team Of The Year.

Yet half has always been in his favoured position and is where he arrived in Auckland expecting to play.

The former Australian Schoolboys representative has been working closely with legendary Kiwi playmaker, Warriors assistant coach Stacey Jones and potential halves partner Blake Green.

Despite battling for the same jersey, he's also formed a close bond with Harris-Tavita.

"We're really tight. We're always working in the gym together and we both know how hard each other have trained.

"He's one of my closest mates here."

Replacing Johnson is a huge challenge for whoever gets the role, which Keighran is well aware of.

But after a productive pre-season - minus that initial hiccup - he feels in the best position to meet it head on.

"He's a great player but we just go to training, do our job and it goes from there," Keighran said.

"Yeah, I feel I'm ready. I think everyone that's with us is ready for first grade. We all train together and all rip into each other so I think everyone's ready."

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