Kieron Purtill confident Widnes can challenge Toronto

Widnes coach Kieron Purtill says they will take inspiration from London Broncos as they prepare to challenge Championship favourites Toronto Wolfpack for promotion to Super League.

The Vikings were relegated from the top flight via The Qualifiers after a dismal 2018 campaign, bringing to an end their seven-year stint in Super League which started when they were awarded a licence for the 2012 season.

Purtill was brought in as head coach, moving from Leigh, and recruitment has been limited, with just four new arrivals as the club backs its academy system, two products of which have moved to Warrington and Catalans in the off-season in the shape of Danny Walker and Matt Whitley.

The coach said: “You have some pre-conceived ideas of how you want things to go and certain people in certain positions, and when you start working with them day to day, you have to be adaptable and change things.

“The players have been first class and we’re looking forward to the season starting now.

“I think we can (compete for the title). Toronto have spent a lot of money and have recruited really well, and they will be favourites, but we are up there.

“The new format means it’s not all about finishing top, although ideally that’s where you want to be.

“It’s about peaking at the right end of the year and we don’t have to look further than what London did last year, they took their opportunities and they’re in Super League.”

Following Purtill from Leigh was Jack Owens, who came through the Widnes academy and made 63 first team appearances before moving on to St Helens.

He has returned to the Halton Stadium and despite having played all of his career on the wing and at full-back to date, could establish himself in the halves in 2019.

Purtill said: “I think the Widnes fans will be surprised in Jack and the change in him as a player.

“He left as a winger and a full back; he’s been away a few years, he’s matured off the field and he’s matured on the field, he’s a very rounded player and a very smart player.

“It’s invaluable to have people like that who can be versatile.”

Having suffered chronic injury problems in recent years, a new coach and a new look squad has failed to break that curse – Purtill losing captain Hep Cahill, centre Krisnan Inu and prop Jay Chapelhow through injury before a competitive ball has even been kicked.

He said: “We need to be able to cope with injuries. You lose players during the game and places have to swap, and that’s part of your season.

“You need to know what you’re getting and what you’ve got within the squad and that flexibility to move people around.

“We’re quite happy with the squad to start off and give those guys an opportunity. All coaches want to bring in players to strengthen the squad and so I would imagine we will look to bring the right players in when we can.”

Widnes kick-off the Championship season with the visit of Halifax on Sunday.

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