There’s little doubting that Widnes Vikings have been the surprise package of the Super League so far this season, with their exceptional displays shooting them to the top of the division.
Since annihilating Leeds, the Vikings have gone on to show that result was no fluke, defeating Huddersfield and Hull KR in recent weeks to ensure a stunning start to the campaign.
On the back of their displays, a number of individuals have come in for a siege of praise, most notably Kevin Brown, Lloyd White, Joe Mellor and Rhys Hanbury, the latter of whom leads the Albert Goldthorpe Medal standings ahead of this week’s fixtures.
However, some players that have been equally influential in Widnes’ success have gone unnoticed. Brown, in particular, possesses great talent, but head coach Denis Betts explained he shines in a strong team structure.
“Everyone has a real understanding of everyone’s job on the field and what they are trying to achieve,” he told TotalRL.
“At the moment everyone is doing their job well, and that makes Kevin’s job really simple. When he gets the ball in hand he’s got plenty of options and opportunities. If he gets the ball at the right time or in a good position then somebody else has done their job before that or given the correct support. They are the things you work on week in week out, so that everyone contributes to create space and create tries.
Here are three players that deserve more credit in aiding Widnes’ ascent of the division.
1. Chris Dean
Metres made: 187
Dean has been a vital component in the Vikings machine so far this year, playing a subtle yet effective role in ensuring the Vikings are not only dangerous going forward but resolute in defence. The second-row has provided the space for Widnes’ wingers to score points and looks to be really developing this year.
Denis Betts says: “He’s a lad that has been playing fantastically well. His contribution not just this year, but over the past couple of years has just grown and grown. He’s an outstanding member of our first-team squad.”
2. Eamon O’Carroll
Metres made: 325
The Ireland international is tough, uncompromising and defensively sound. Average almost 25 tackles per game, O’Carroll is a massive boost to the Vikings during his stints on the field and puts the team in positions that allow the backs to do the damage.
Denis Betts says: “He has put five or six games together for the first time in a number of years. He’s looking healthy and he is playing well. I always knew if I could start getting him playing on a regular basis I would have a fantastic front-row. Long may it continue that he plays in the manner he has and does so every week.”
3. Matt Whitley
Metres made: 61
Although only making two appearances, Whitley has performed well in the latest victories over the Giants and KR.
He looks set to have a promising future in the game.
Denis Betts says: “He’s 20 years of age. He’s been in and out of the team, but what he does in training makes him ready to play. He turns up every single day ready to play and wanting to be in the team. To have that in the group is fantastic for me and the coaches.”