Stefan Ratchford had "great" first season at Warrington Wolves
Stefan Ratchford says his first season with Warrington Wolves has gone better than he could have imagined, despite missing out on a Grand Final victory.
Ratchford enjoyed success at club level in his first season with the Wire and also made his England debut in July.
He told BBC North West Sport: "We were unlucky not to win the League Leaders' Shield. We won the Challenge Cup and got to the Super League Grand Final.
"It's been a great first year, probably more than I could have asked for."
Ratchford's "great" season
- July 2011: Signs three-year deal with Warrington, commencing at end of contract with Salford City Reds
- March 2012: Injured in sixth appearance for the Wire - undergoes shoulder surgery and is out of action for 10 weeks
- May: Returns with two tries at Wakefield
- July: Makes England debut against the Exiles, then scores try in Challenge Cup semi-final win against Huddersfield Giants
- August: Starts Challenge Cup final victory against Leeds Rhinos at Wembley
- September: Helps Warrington to second place in Super League and then a first Grand Final in club's history
- October: Starts Grand Final defeat by Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford
He continued: "The only thing that could have topped it was the victory in the Grand Final. We'll come back stronger next year and hopefully go one better."
Ratchford, who has been used in a variety of roles by Warrington coach Tony Smith this season, joined Warrington from Salford City Reds at the start of the campaign.
But it was a far from ideal start to his career at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. A shoulder injury suffered in his sixth appearance at Leeds required surgery, which put him out of action for more than two months.
On his return to full fitness, he helped the Wolves to Challenge Cup victory against Leeds at Wembley in August and a first Grand Final in Warrington's history earlier this month.
A 26-18 defeat by the Rhinos at Old Trafford meant the season ended on a slightly disappointing note, although Ratchford believes every player in the squad will have taken something from the experience.
"I don't think it's just the younger lads - a lot of the senior boys will benefit as well," he said. "It was the first Grand Final for the club and for a lot of the players.
"If you look at Lee Briers, it was his first one and he's the other side of 30 now.
"The staff and everyone involved with the club will benefit. The experience that we've had is only going to drive us on to come back next year.
"I think there's only a couple of lads leaving. Big Dave Solomona is going, but the majority of the squad are sticking together. We can only benefit from that and go one better next year."