When Aaron Lewis was pulling on a Wales Dragonhearts shirt just four months ago, the last thing he would have expected was to be facing Widnes Vikings in a competitive game.
The 31-year-old spent last season with Aberavon Fighting Irish which allowed him to win his second Dragonhearts cap, the first of which he won in 2016 whilst with Valley Cougars.
But now Lewis, and his Wests Warriors side from London, are the minnows in the ultimate David versus Goliath story, as they travel to DCBL Stadium tomorrow (Saturday) for a Betfred Rugby League Challenge Cup Third Round tie.
Wests Warriors normally play in the Southern Conference League, a competition ranked six tiers below the Betfred Championship, which is where the former World Champions of Widnes Vikings currently ply their trade.
Lewis came through rugby union ranks with the Royal Navy but found rugby league over a decade ago with Neath Port Talbot Steelers and won the first of his West Wales caps whilst playing with them in 2012. A move to Valley Cougars followed and he made two professional appearances in 2017, playing for South Wales Scorpions for two matches, kicking two goals in his first game.
Now Lewis has moved to London for family and work reasons and linked up with Wests Warriors, a club formed initially by exiles and travellers from New Zealand.
“I never thought find a club like the Fighting Irish or Valley Cougars boys back home,” he said. “But being part of the Warriors is unreal.
“I also didn’t think we’d be playing a team like Widnes in the Challenge Cup. I played in round 1 but missed round 2, so I’m buzzing for the game tomorrow.
“We travel tonight and stay until Sunday – making a real weekend of it.
“The team have prepared well, the boys feel good, we all know this is huge challenge but we are all excited. Not going to lie, I am nervous but if you don’t get nervous before a game then what’s the point in playing?”
Lewis will hope to be facing a couple of full Wales internationals tomorrow as Matty Fozard and Ant Walker who each have 13 full Wales caps and two World Cups behind them, have been named in a Vikings squad, coached by Wales men’s boss John Kear, who have Super League promotion ambitions.
“Playing against a club as big as the Vikings will be exciting,” Lewis admits. “To take to the field against the full Wales internationals will be an eye-opener and a huge step up from who I’m used to playing against, but we’ll just need to forget that and focus on our own game.
“We were drawn at home but transferred the tie to Widnes. It gives us a chance to play at a professional set-up. It’ll be the biggest stadium in rugby league that I’ve played in and I’m sure it will be buzzing with the northern crowd. I expect we’ll get some stick, but that’s all part of the game. We’re just looking forward to putting in the best performance we possibly can.”
Widnes Vikings v Wests Warriors on Saturday 11 March, kicks off at 3pm.