RISING Giants star Michael Lawrence is bracing himself for what could be his biggest year on the Super League stage.
The 18-year-old former Newsome Panthers junior shot onto the scene last season and is set to start the 2009 campaign partnering Paul Whatuira in the centres.
It’s something he did on a number of occasions last year.
And the Huddersfield-born Lawrence, who made 14 top-flight appearances last season and scored four tries, can’t wait for Super League XIV to get started under new coach Nathan Brown.
“I’m really excited about what this season could bring,” said Lawrence, who missed a chunk of the last Super League campaign after being called into the England Academy squad for last summer’s tour to Australia.
“Pre-season training under Nathan has been fantastic. I feel I’ve learned lots and have definitely improved as a player.
“And I think that’s important.
“After playing quite a few games in Super League last season, I suppose the opposition might know a bit more about me.
“They’ll know what to expect and it means I might have to work that bit harder to make an impression.
“But that’s a challenge that excites me.
“I’ve always liked to test myself as much as possible, and this will be the next big test.
“Having now had a taste of Super League, I’m determined to push on and achieve as much as I possibly can.”
Although Lawrence made such a big impact in 2008, he still picked up his fair share of knocks.
As a result, he underwent minor surgery on ankle and knee niggles as soon as the season ended.
That meant he was available at the start of pre-season training, with Lawrence delighted about how the surgery has gone.
“Pre-season training has been really tough, although very enjoyable,” added Lawrence.
“I’m feeling fit and fresh, and I’m delighted with how quickly the knee and ankle heeled after surgery.
“If there’d still been any problem, I know the toughness of the pre-season training would have found them out.
“But I do feel stronger than last year and, hopefully, that will tell with my performances this season.
“I personally felt I did all right in the two pre-season games I’ve played in.
“They’ve given me a solid platform to work on, and also added to my confidence.
“And I also think the way Nathan wants us to play will suit me.
“I think everyone loves playing a more open game, and that’s what Nathan is encouraging us to do.
“Obviously, there are times when that’s just not possible.
“But if we feel there’s a chance to try something, we know we can give it a go.
“I think the fans saw that in both the Castleford game and the Wigan game.
“Obviously, it was really disappointing to lose so late on against Wigan, but for much of the game we were in control and we only had ourselves to blame for not finishing them off.
“It’s a lesson we’ll hopefully learn by the time we play our first Super League game of the season at Catalans Dragons.
“It’s obviously a tough first game for us, but we’re feeling confident. I know I am.
“As I said, the pre-season has been incredibly hard, but I think we’re all feeling a lot fitter and we’re excited about what the season has in store.
“We all feel we’ve improved, both individually and as a team.
“But the only way we’ll know that for sure is obviously when we start playing the League games.
“And that’s nearly here!”