Widnes full-back Shaun Briscoe is enjoying his testimonial year in 2013, but it’s proving to be a difficult one on the field, as he struggles to cement a place in the Vikings first team.
Briscoe, 30, has served as a distinguished full back for Wigan and both Hull clubs in his Super League career, and joined Widnes as one of their biggest signings ahead of their return to the top flight in 2012.
Unfortunately for Briscoe, injuries restricted him to just eight appearances last term, and he has so far started just four matches in 2013.
He said: “It’s been frustrating. I probably haven’t been getting as many games as I would have hoped, especially after last year. At this stage of my career, I don’t want to be sitting on the sidelines.
“It’s hard to win the fans over. They haven’t really seen me play consistently, and obviously that’s caused their perception of me to be different to fans at my previous clubs, who have seen me on a regular basis. I came to Widnes as an ex-international, who’s played a lot of games, and was expected to do well and lead the team around, and not getting the chance to do that added more pressure.
“Part of the frustrating thing for me this year is that fans think I’ve been injured, and I’ve not, I’ve been available for every game.”
Last season was the first Briscoe has made less than 20 Super League appearances since 2003, when he was still establishing himself at Wigan.
He moved to Hull in 2004, spending four years there before making a switch to city rivals Hull KR, becoming one of the few players to have been admired by fans on both sides of the city.
“I was frustrated to get injured last year and coming back too soon was possibly my downfall. I first did my groin against Saints in the friendly, I probably rushed back for the Leeds game and although I was fit to play, maybe another week or two would have been better for me.
“I then came back against Wigan off the bench, and was desperate to be back involved, and again suffered. I just wanted to play, and made things worse for myself.
“Strength and depth is a big part to it and if we would have had that strength and depth last year, then maybe Denis (Betts) but would have waited. It probably wasn’t just his decision, it was my desperation telling me I was good to go.”
Keen to make his mark this season, Briscoe missed the opening day victory at London, and has played in just six of Widnes’ 10 games to date, with Betts preferring Rhys Hanbury at full back.
With no reserve grade to keep fit, the nine-cap former England international has even asked to play on dual-registration for Workington.
He added: “I asked could I go, but they (Workington) didn’t want me, as they were settled with who they had playing there.
“It would have been nice to go and get some game time up there, I just want to play rugby. It’s what I love, and what I love doing, and being on the field with the lads is great, I don’t want to be sat in the stands watching.
“I think I lost my love for rugby at certain points last year – being injured is one of the harder parts of being a player, you’re out there on your own and getting fit seems so far away.
“But what will be will be. From previous experience, I’ve always said that things happen for a reason, and I’ll see where it takes me.”
While it’s been a tough season for Briscoe, Widnes have shown significant progress on the field, racking up four wins and a draw in their first 10 matches, and they are unbeaten in their last four home games.
Briscoe said: “I think it’s a case of the players getting used to each other, getting used to the way each other operates.
“The competition for places means people have got to step up their game to keep their spots in the team. I think we were maybe resting on our laurels a bit last year where people were guaranteed spots in the team.
“We’re just going to go game by game, then we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the season.”
Briscoe’s season will include more events as part of his testimonial, including the upcoming Rugby League X Factor event at Brindley Hall in Runcorn. For more information, visit www.shaunbriscoe2013.com, or to buy tickets online, go to www.thebrindley.org.uk