Widnes Vikings 2012 season preview

It has been seven long years since Widnes were last in Super League. Their death knell came at the hands of close rivals Warrington after a 60-16 loss at home, and the Vikings were subsequently replaced by Catalan Dragons

But Widnes soon accepted their place in the second tier of professional rugby league. They failed to gain promotion back into the top flight on two consecutive attempts in the Grand Final. They fell to Hull KR in 2006, and lost out to Castleford in 2007. 

The 2007 loss came at a price. Widnes had overspent trying to get back into Super League and they fell into administration. Despite a new owner, a new board of directors and a whole new financial plan, the RFL refused to give Widnes a Super League licence for the 2009 season as they were announced in 2008.

Widnes qualified for a license application on the first attempt. They defeated Barrow 34-18 in the 2009 Northern Rail Cup final, and despite their on field form being shaky since, they have had three years to put together an application backed by owner Steve O’Connor.

Paul Cullen came to the club in 2009 and was later moved upstairs into a director of rugby role. Denis Betts has coached the side since from the start of 2011 and will continue to do so in Super League.

Key man: Shaun Briscoe

Shaun Briscoe boasts a wealth of experience for Widnes. He was part of the 2009 England squad that lost out to Australia in the final. He was originally a product of the Wigan academy that also spawned Luke Robinson. But Briscoe made his name in the city of Kingston upon Hull, where he turned out for both teams, first the Arlie Birds before moving over to join the Robins. He will be a key component for Widnes at fullback with ball returns and his ability to catch difficult balls.

One-to-watch: Jack Owens

Jack Owens is a star of the future. He made his Championship debut as a 16-year old scoring a try, and was selected in the England under 18 academy squad who played France and the Australian Institute of Sport. Despite only playing two games at first team level in 2011, he is a mature young player above his years and will one day become an international sensation according to his coaches.

Transfers In: Shaun Briscoe (Hull KR), Hep Cahill (Crusaders RL), Ben Cross, (Wigan), Patrick Ah Van (Bradford), Ben Davies (Wigan), Chris Dean (Wakefield), Lloyd White (Crusaders RL), Frank Winterstein (Crusaders RL), Willie Isa (Castleford), Jon Clarke (Warrington), Rhys Hanbury (Crusaders RL), Anthony Watts (Sydney), Scott Moore (St Helens).

Transfers Out: Anthony Thackeray (York), James Ford (York), Kirk Netherton (Castleford, returns from loan), Chris Gerard (Leigh), Richard Varkulis (Leigh), Danny Hulme (North Wales), Chris Lunt (North Wales), Chaz I’Azon (Swinton), Matt Gardner (Leigh), Tangi Ropati (Featherstone), James Coyle (Barrow), Steve Tyrer (Halifax).

Prediction: Won’t be the worst side in the league but will struggle once the honeymoon is over, 12th.

 

Super League Grand Final Odds: 150/1 (14th)
League Leaders Odds: 250/1 (14th)
Challenge Cup: 150/1 (16th)
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Squad: Shaun Briscoe, Paddy Flynn, Chris Dean, Willie Isa, Patrick Ah Van, Lloyd White, Rhys Hanbury, Ben Cross, Scott Moore, Ben Davies, Frank Winterstein, Hep Cahill, Jon Clarke, Anthony Watts, Simon Finnigan, Ben Kavanagh, Steve Pickersgill, Stefan Marsh, Dave Allen, Macgraff Leuluai, Thomas Coyle, Kurt Haggerty, Danny Craven, Anthony Mullally, Grant Gore, Alex Gerrard, Jack Owens, Tom Gilmore, Alex Brown.