In his first two seasons as a Warrior, Josh Curran struggled for game time.
After joining the club from the Sydney Roosters as a mid-season transfer in 2019, the promising young back rower only featured in five NRL matches in his first two years with the club.
However, in 2021 Curran has become a star with his high work rate on both sides of the ball, and he says his emergence can be largely attributed to the arrival of head coach Nathan Brown.
In his first season at the helm, Brown identified Curran as a player who could help the club at the top level, and challenged him to improve his game. The 22-year-old did so, and was ultimately rewarded with a prominent role in the campaign.
"At the start of the year, Browny kind of pulled me aside and told me he wanted me to be in first grade, and he told me the things I had to work on – a major one was my defence," Curran recalls.
"I've been trying to work on that a lot this year. But pretty much he just told me that he believed in me and I've been growing in confidence with each game that goes by. But yeah, Browny has kind of pulled me aside and given me the opportunity, so I'm really grateful for that.
"He's a real straightforward guy and I've loved it. It's probably been the best thing that's happened to me, him being the coach."
In 13 appearances this season, Curran has been among the Warriors' leading tacklers with an average of 36 per game. He has also flashed his ability as a ball-runner and even a playmaker with a handful of try assists.
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A two-time representative for the Indigenous All-Stars team, Curran shapes up as a key part of the Warriors young nucleus, alongside fullback Reece Walsh (19), back rower Eliesa Katoa (21), halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita (22) and hooker Wayde Egan (24) - all of whom have proven themselves as NRL-ready talents.
For Curran, having Brown's support has been a huge factor this season.
"He's the man that picks the team and if he's saying that to me, I wouldn't say it's a shock, but I'm happy he has that belief in me and believes I can go out there and play good footy. Each game he tells me to be me and that's what I try to do – leave everything out on the field."
Curran will line up in the back row for the Warriors' final game of the season this Sunday when they take on the Gold Coast Titans.
While the Warriors are no longer in the running for the playoffs, the side are determined to go out on the right note – particularly with the match being the last for veteran centre Peta Hiku in Warriors colours as he will join the North Queensland Cowboys next season.
"It's Pet's last game for the club and it might be a couple of the other boys', so we want to finish on a high and send Pet off with a win."