As part of the run-up to Super League 2017, we’ll be posing three big talking points surrounding each of the 12 sides as they kick their campaigns off this weekend. Here’s a look at Friday’s intriguing clash between Widnes Vikings and Huddersfield Giants.
Is their halfback pairing good enough?
After Kevin Brown jumped ship, Denis Betts moved quickly to name Joe Mellor as Vikings’ number 6 for 2017 with Tom Gilmore being promoted to the number 7 jersey. It will cause some teething issues, given how crucial Brown was to Widnes, especially with Mellor’s absence early in the season.
Can they score the points to match their water-tight defence?
Defence was something Denis Betts was keen to improve in 2016 and only Warrington, Wigan and Hull boasted better defensive records after 23 rounds. Scoring points didn’t come so easily, though, and improvement is needed if the Vikings are to sustain the progress they have made in recent seasons.
Has their recruitment been too skinny?
The loss of Kevin Brown hasn’t been matched by the Vikings’ recruitment for 2017, with Greg Burke (Wigan), Tom Armstrong (Leigh) and Tom Olbison (Bradford) their biggest signings. The lack of star quality in their side could mean their fortunes could go into reverse this year unless some of their younger players can rise to the challenge and realise their potential.
Can Rick Stone get his players onside quickly enough?
Rumour had it that some of Huddersfield’s players were not overly enamoured with Stone’s methods following his arrival last summer, so the Aussie has plenty to prove this year as he bids to avoid another bottom-four finish.
How long will it take for the new-look Giants to gel?
Stalwarts such as Eorl Crabtree, Craig Huby, Scott Grix and Kyle Wood are no longer part of the Giants’ squad and a raft of new signings have arrived, including those five players from liquidated Bradford Bulls, so we can expect plenty of transition, although their performance at Warrington last Wednesday gives grounds for optimism.
Can the club draw the fans back in?
The Giants have consistently struggled to attract decent crowds to the John Smith’s Stadium and, with the town’s football club having a good season, they will need to produce some good performances to get their own fans back onside.