Widnes CEO James Rule has admitted the club has identified several targets for 2019, but he insists the Vikings’ first focus is finalising their retained squad.
The Vikings have a number of players out of contract at the end of the season, despite a handful of players already penning new contracts beyond 2019.
Chris Houston, Alex Gerrard, Tom Gilmore, Aaron Heremaia, Ryan Ince, Stefan Marsh, Charly Runciman and Lloyd White are among those yet to sign new deals with the club, despite their existing deals running out at the end of the season.
Rule admitted that their pursuit of new additions is well underway, but re-signing existing stars is the first priority.
“We’ve got a big chunk of players off-contract at the end of the season and we’re in talks with the majority of them,” he said.
“Over the next couple of weeks will be initiating talks with everybody. With some players there’s a natural wait and see, where there’s been a certain run of injury for instance. But we’d like to retain the majority of what we’ve got and build upon it.
“Again, the challenge is always trying to anticipate the budget you’re working to next year and beyond so you can commit to the right offer and continue to grow. We’re loyal to our players and they’re loyal to us. We’ll be working hard to retain everybody. Your retention is your most costly aspect as if they’ve improved then rightly they’ve earned an increase.”
The aforementioned players are now free to talk with other clubs and sign deals away from the Vikings, but Rule is confident they will want to stay at the Select Security Stadium
“It’s just a fact of life,” he said.
“You hope that what you’ve built is something people want to be a part of. But there’s always a chance someone will come in with a significantly enhanced financial offer and in those scenarios you have to let people go with their best wishes. But I think the players we have enjoy being a part of the Vikings and the majority will want to stay. That said it’s a competitive marketplace and you can’t keep everybody.”
On new additions, Rule added: “There are certain areas of the team we feel we could strengthen. Looking to next year we’ve got some areas where we are very competitive but others where we need depth. Again, that’s moving because it’s on what you’ve got now and if some of them decide they’re not staying things may change. The first step is to finalise your retention then focus on those areas. Regardless of that, there are areas where we still feel we need to strengthen.
“Yes, there are targets we’ve identified but some of them may drift away quite quickly because you might engage, have a conversation and the expectations are way beyond what Widnes or indeed Super League clubs could facilitate. But you’ve got to target people to get an understanding.”