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Challenge Cup final: Warrington Wolves' rising star Josh Thewlis spurred on by Wembley glory aim

Warrington Wolves' Josh Thewlis made his Betfred Super League debut as a 17-year-old and is one of the most highly-regarded young players in the competition; the winger is aiming to win the first silverware of his career on Saturday when the Wolves face Wigan Warriors at Wembley

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com - 19/05/2024 - Rugby League - Betfred Challenge Cup Semi Final - Huddersfield Giants v Warrington Wolves - The Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens, England - Warrington's Josh Thewlis after victory over Huddersfield.

Even Josh Thewlis struggles to believe how long he has been a Betfred Super League player for. Still only 22, the Warrington Wolves winger is in his sixth season and now has his first major final to look forward to this weekend.

A product of renowned community side Waterhead, a club which has produced Super League greats such as Kevin Sinfield, Barrie McDermott and Paul Sculthorpe, Thewlis made his Wolves bow as a 17-year-old in 2019 and has since become a regular in the first team.

It is only in the past three seasons the Oldham native has truly established himself at Warrington, but he is delighted to see his hard work paying off as he prepares for being part of the Wolves' bid to lift the Betfred Challenge Cup at Wembley on Saturday.

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Josh Thewlis intercepts a wayward Leeds Rhinos pass as his try gives Warrington Wolves a dominant 32-8 lead.

"I got told this year it's my sixth season and I couldn't quite believe it," Thewlis told Sky Sports. "When you look back, there are a lot of lessons along the way and it's not been plain sailing, but they're something I'm grateful for.

"The last three years I've been playing more regularly, building combinations with players and playing with some of the top players.

"George Williams, Danny Walker, Matty Ashton - they're all playing for England at the moment and that's where I want to be, and I'm just learning every day.

"It's my first final and I'm looking forward to it. I'm only 22, I've got no honours to my name yet, so I'm hoping to change that this weekend, get a medal around my neck and enjoy it with the lads."

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Josh Thewlis 2024 stats

Thewlis, who is capable of playing at full-back as well, has already shown his try-scoring prowess this year. He has scored a career-best 11 in all competitions with eight of those coming in Super League, which makes him the joint-ninth highest scorer in the league and joint top at the Wolves with Matt Dufty.

Super League's young player of the year for 2023 is keeping alive rugby league's fine tradition of goal-kicking wingers as well, taking over duties from the tee in the absence of Warrington's regular kicker Stefan Ratchford earlier this season and landing 25 of 32 attempts at goal so far.

That was a responsibility Thewlis has regularly shouldered during his younger days and when head coach Sam Burgess asked him to take it on again ahead of the 2024, he immediately went to Ratchford for advice on perfecting his technique.

"When I was younger, I always kicked goals," Thewlis said. "I probably let it slack a little through the academy because Stef was there and he's an unbelievable kicker - he's a master at it.

I got told this year it’s my sixth season and I couldn’t quite believe it. When you look back, there are a lot of lessons along the way and it’s not been plain sailing, but they’re something I’m grateful for.
Josh Thewlis

"When Sam spoke to me about kicking, I went straight to Stef. When you kick a football, you never lose it, but it's just looking at the finer details Stef looks at.

"He talks about his plant foot, his lead in, his pace going into the ball - stuff I've never worried about. I've been trying to get with his pace a bit, he has his own way and that's it.

"He's very focused and doesn't sway away from that, and I'm a bit more of a relaxed kicker. He understands that as well and is a brilliant mentor. I'd be stupid not to learn from him."

Ratchford, who was part of Warrington's Challenge Cup final triumphs in 2012 and 2019 and has played just about every position on the field at some point in his career, has proven to be a mentor for Thewlis in a more general sense as well.

Warrington Wolves v Hull Kingston Rovers - Betfred Super League - Halliwell Jones Stadium
Warrington Wolves' Josh Thewlis scores a conversion during the Betfred Super League match at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington. Picture date: Thursday May 9, 2024.
Image: Josh Thewlis took over as Warrington's kicker in the absence of Stefan Ratchford

Having England captain George Williams as a team-mate and Burgess as a head coach, both of whom have vast experience from Super League and Australia's NRL, means he has plenty of resources to tap into there as well, while Warrington director of rugby Gary Chambers has been there as a guiding hand ever since Thewlis joined the club's academy.

The England Knights international is determined to keep picking up all he can from those around him and putting in the hard work to ensure he achieves his ambition of representing the full national team at Test level.

But first up comes coping with the mental side of playing on one of rugby league's grandest stages for the first time as the Wolves take on reigning Super League champions and World Club Challenge winners, not to mention fierce north-west rivals, Wigan Warriors, in the Challenge Cup final.

"Super League games, I'm normally okay, but I've heard you're in the tunnel for quite a while at Wembley and there's a lot going on," Thewlis said.

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Highlights as Wigan Warriors edged out Warrington Wolves 19-18 in last Saturday's Betfred Super League game, ahead of their Betfred Challenge Cup final meeting at Wembley.

"That's something I've never experienced before, but I'm pretty laid-back anyway so I think I'll be okay. I'm just really looking forward to getting out there and putting my best foot forward for the team.

"These are the games you dream of playing in when you're younger, these are the games your mum and dad commit to driving over to Warrington three times a week for.

"I can't wait to walk out and see them in the crowd, and it'll all be worth it. Hopefully we'll get that win as well - it would be an unbelievable feeling."

Watch every match of the 2024 Betfred Super League season, including Magic Weekend, the play-offs, and men's, women's, and wheelchair Grand Finals, live on Sky Sports. Also stream with NOW.

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