Widnes Vikings kick off their 2016 campaign on Sunday with a trip to Belle Vue to face Wakefield. In a year where both teams are predicted to struggle, this could be the perfect opportunity to prove their critics wrong in the opening game of the season.
While both sides have been written off from any top eight participation come August, neither of the teams will be underestimating their chances, and will believe they can compete with the top teams in the Super League.
The away side have an outstanding record against Wakefield from last season; three victories out of three, including a 46-6 win during the Super Eights mean that Wakefield will be determined to settle the scores against Denis Betts’ men, starting Sunday.
Wakefield fans will be especially optimistic; new coach Brian Smith, signed to the coaching staff in May last year, brings a wealth of managerial experience and has had time to fully implement his ideas into the club.
But it isn’t just the coaching staff that’s experienced for Wakefield – top-flight knowledge runs deep in the Wildcats, with newly recruited full-back Ben Jones-Bishop and mainstay second-rower Danny Kirmond providing the spine of the team with a deep knowledge of the Super League.
Despite being tipped for relegation come September, Widnes will not be put off by their doubters. New signings Charly Runciman and Setaimata Sa could be the catalysts for a good season, if results go their way. The fitness of star man Kevin Brown is also a key factor in the performance of the Vikings this season.
Team news to follow…