Widnes win dedicated to the late Liam Walsh
WIDNES coach Simon Finnigan (pictured) says he was proud of the way his players performed in tough personal circumstances in their final game of the season at Swinton.
The Vikings took to the field just hours after learning of the death at 23 of former player Liam Walsh.
The backrower was a product of the Widnes development system and played for the England Academy side as well as making six first-team appearances between 2017 and 2019.
After leaving Widnes, for whom he made a Super League appearance against Leeds, he returned to his original club, Halton Hornets.
The Vikings paid tribute to Walsh by wearing black armbands and holding a minute’s silence before the Swinton fixture, which they won 26-16.
Their players also laid out a jersey bearing his name and the number 23 prior to the match.
The club has set up a memorial and a book of condolence at the DCBL Stadium while a GoFundMe page has been launched by friends and family to help cover funeral costs.
Widnes captain Jack Owens, who played alongside Walsh, put his 2021 playing shirt up for auction to raise £650 for the page.
“Sometimes it’s hard to find words,” said Finnigan.
“You see things people do and the efforts they make and think ‘wow’.
“I looked at the match and thought about certain individuals and I was really proud. I take my hat off to them.
“It’s a special place, and special club and a special town, and I think we saw that.”
Vikings chief executive Phil Finney said” “Liam was a very special person and a very important part of our club for a number of years.
“He made a lasting impression on everyone he met with his sense of humour and contagious personality.
“He was a one-off and will be remembered with great fondness by all at the club who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
BATLEY have agreed one-year contract extensions with front row duo Jack Blagbrough and Tom Lillycrop as well as centre Kieran Buchanan – and could launch a bid for York winger Perry Whiteley.
Blagbrough, 27, has been at Batley since 2020, having previously played for Huddersfield, where he came through the Academy, Sheffield, Leigh and York.
Lillycrop, 28, joined in 2015, after spells at Dewsbury and Sheffield.
Buchanan, 22, switched from Hull ahead of this season.
The trio were all involved as Batley completed their regular-season schedule with a 12-10 win at Halifax to seal home advantage in their play-off eliminator against Bradford. After beating the Bulls, they now face a trip to Toulouse Olympique this Saturday.
Whiteley, 28, came through the Huddersfield development system like Blagbrough and joined York in 2018.
Before that he played for Workington and Sheffield while this year, he had a spell on loan at Featherstone, against whom he played for York in the 1896 Cup final at Wembley, scoring a try in the Knights’ 41-34 defeat.
Meanwhile Bradford are reportedly tracking Bulldogs fullback Elliot Hall, who scored a crucial try against them on Saturday.
WHITEHAVEN captain Marc Shackley says another knee operation would be one too many.
The popular 32-old prop has decided to retire, ending a nine-year association with the club separated by a six-year stint at Workington.
The Egremont product first played for Whitehaven in 2008, and, having joined Workington in 2011, returned in 2017, skippering them to promotion as League 1 champions in 2019.
While Whitehaven made this season’s play-offs, Shackley has been sidelined since last month.
“I tried to battle on but after the York game (on August 22), it became apparent that the knee was a major issue,” he explained.
“I could have had surgery and been able to carry on, but there was no guarantee.
“I have had numerous operations on my knees previously which allowed me to continue playing, but the time has come to step away.
“I’ve been honoured to help get this club back to where they belong in the last three seasons.”
Coach Gary Charlton said: “Marc was a cornerstone of every pack he played in. He led from the front and was a great captain.”
SWINTON coach Allan Coleman says the club’s “punt” on signing Luis Roberts has paid off.
Along with props Tyler Dupree (Oldham) and Ebon Scurr (Bradford), the 19-year-old winger has made the shortlist for the Championship Young Player of the Year award.
Contenders must have been 21 or under on January 1, 2021 and have made at least ten first-team appearances.
Roberts, a product of Swinton’s partner community club Folly Lane, played for Salford’s Reserve team in the truncated 2020 competition.
He signed for Swinton ahead of this season, and Coleman, who was assistant coach to Stuart Littler at the time, explained: “We took a bit of a punt, to be fair.
“Luis’s progress had been messed up by Covid, but we got him in for pre-season, and he started to get to grips with things again.
“An injury to Richard Lepori gave him a chance, and he took it.
“He’s a big lad, and he uses his frame really well, and is strong-running. He’s got a great attitude too.
“We’re pleased with the progress he has made, and I think it shows that we’re willing to work with young players and give them an opportunity.”
LONDON BRONCOS interim coach Tom Tsang says his team left themselves with too much to do at York, where their play-off hopes unravelled as they slipped to a 32-22 defeat.
The capital side knew a win would have sealed a top-six spot, and led 6-0, but the Knights were able to go 30-6 up with only 20 minutes remaining.
The Broncos, who have announced that ex-London Skolars coach Jermaine Coleman will be at the helm next season, were leapfrogged by Whitehaven.
Tsang, who took over when Danny Ward parted company with the club in July said: “As soon as we scored our first try, we seemed to switch off.
“It allowed York to dominate when they had the ball. We weren’t committed to some of the areas where we needed to be to hold our early lead.
“We fought back in the last part of the second half, but we left ourselves with too much to do.”
Tsang, who oversaw wins in four of his eight matches at the helm, added: “It’s been a tough season and we’re naturally disappointed.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER have confirmed that as well as Bradford-bound threequarter Kieran Gill, Reece Dean, Liam McAvoy and Lewis Young are all leaving the club.
Utility back Dean, 24, has been at Kingston Park for two years. He came through the ranks at Hull and joined Thunder from Hunslet, having previously played for Toronto, Sheffield and Doncaster. This season he has been on loan at Rochdale.
Former Workington forward McAvoy, 28, has been on board for four years.
Long-serving fullback Young, 26, comes from Castleford and played for community club Redhill before joining Newcastle in 2016 while a student at Northumbria University.
The League 1 Young Player of the Year in 2017, he has spent time on loan at Hunslet this year.
Dean and McAvoy both featured as Newcastle completed their first second-tier campaign since 2009 at home to table-topping Toulouse, who were 82-12 winners.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES have agreed contract extensions with Ryan Johnson and Tyler Dickinson – and veteran halfback Anthony Thackeray is set to play for a further campaign.
Centre Johnson, 21, who was signed from Hull, has penned three-year terms after an impressive first season at the club.
Ex-Huddersfield prop Dickinson, 25, was also recruited ahead of this season after two years at Batley. He is now with the Eagles until the end of 2023.
Dickinson won the club’s player of the year award while Johnson took the shooting star prize and tweeted: “I’m buzzing to be spending another three years here. I can’t wait to get stuck in again.”
Former Hull, Castleford, Widnes, Halifax, Dewsbury and Featherstone man Thackeray, 35, joined Sheffield in 2019.
With skipper Matt James, winger Rob Worrincy and prop Scott Wheeldon all retiring, his experience could be key as coach Mark Aston tries to create a more competitive squad following this year’s twelfth-placed finish.
“We will replace them with younger players. The rebuild is about getting people in for the next so many years,” said Aston.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS coach James Ford will avoid making wholesale changes despite a disappointing campaign and a number of player retirements and departures.
The Knights closed with a 32-22 home win over London Broncos but still finished in ninth position.
“Things haven’t quite gone to plan this year. We haven’t been miles away but we have been a bit off,” said Ford, who has landed Bradford winger Joe Brown on a one-year deal.
“We need to address that in the off-season and we’ll work really hard to do it. But it’s certainly not baby out with the bathwater time.
“We’ve got to cop it on the chin and come back stronger, which I’m sure we will.”
Ford, who has just completed a seventh season at the helm, added: “We’ve got to replace the retiring players.
“And there are some who are moving on to other clubs because they probably want to move up in status in a squad.
“I would never lie to people and I couldn’t promise they would definitely be a starting player.
“We’ve got a busy couple of weeks in front of us. I want players in my mould; we’re going back to that.”