Betts praises Widnes academy

Widnes coach Denis Betts was quick to praise the work of the club’s academy staff and players following the 37-24 win over Leigh at the weekend.

It was the Vikings first win of the season and came with 12 first team players out injured, which meant that six academy products featured, including 17-year-old debutant Danny Walker.

Half-backs Tom Gilmore and Danny Craven, who notched an impressive hat-trick, were joined by hooker Jordan Johnstone and last season’s Super League Young Player of the Year runner-up Matt Whitley.

Perhaps most impressive was the contribution of prop James Chapelhow, who went for 42 tackles, 24 carries and 117 metres. All six were on the field at the same time for a period of the second half.

Betts said: “When you breed your own, that’s what you’re aiming for to be in that situation (where you have multiple academy products on the pitch.)

“A lot of credit much go to the academy system. An elite academy is going to create elite players that can play Super League, and on the weekend when you’ve got 12 blokes sat in the stand that would probably start in the game, you’ve got to lean on people you trust and have developed.

“Those six were outstanding.

“Everyone performed well. Danny Craven scored a hat-trick and has a fantastic game, Tom Gilmore pushes us around really well and for what Jay did to be out there for 72 minutes and do what he did.

“Jordan Johnstone played 80 minutes at nine and was outstanding and sets up a try, works himself in to the ground. I think two young kids that played in that pack deserve a pat on the back.

“Danny is only 17, he was playing his first game and he unfortunately joins the lads that take a whack on the head and has to leave the field early.

“In those 15 minutes when he was out there, he was brave, he was smart and everything we expected him to be.”

Captain Joe Mellor, who has so far not featured in Super League so far this season after picking up an injury in the pre-season friendly with Warrington, is expected to come back in to contention for Friday’s trip to Wakefield.

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