With a long super league season ahead are Widnes going to have the strength in depth, and quality to survive in the halfback department?
First the loss of Kevin Brown across the local divide from Widnes to Warrington – a key playmaker and Widnes captain. I believe for the Widnes team this will be a huge blow to the club to lose him just before the start of the season. Brown was the spark in the Widnes side, the steadier of the ship, the person who got them around the pitch. I also question Widnes’ recruitment after his departure.
However, Widnes born Tom Gilmore has taken over the number 7 jersey this season, a young playmaker with a massive weight on his shoulders, especially with Mellor being out for at least 5/6 matches. At 23 I believe he’s ready for the challenge, a young scrum half with ample ability, he may well be the answer to the vacant position.
Along with Gilmore, the number 6 shirt being taken over by “off the cuff” playmaker and scrum half Joe Mellor, who in the super league 2016 season had 23 appearances, with 10 tries and a drop goal. Along with 10 tries in 2015 season. You can definitely tell the scrum half isn’t scared of taking on the line, with his speed and an eye for the try line.
Despite both players having talent and a great rugby brain, they have been thrust together quite late in preseason, and I believe the starting half back pairing would have been Brown and Mellor without the departure of Brown just before the start of the season. Hence wouldn’t have had much time to work together in their partnership. Vikings were quickly tested, when in a friendly in the off season Mellor picked up an injury, out for at least the first 5 rounds of the super league. Mellor being a co-captain and also the more experienced of the two in the halves, is a massive loss so early on for Widnes.
Although this does open the way for Tom Gilmore to take charge in the halves, show his maturity and put his stamp on the team. This does mean though the other half will lack any sort of coordination with Gilmore, the gap left by Mellor was filled by Chris Bridge, normally a centre for the Vikings, but has played in the halves previously at the Warrington Wolves. This partnership of young and old may work given time, youthfulness and experience, however, the Giants game proved to be too soon, seeing Widnes fall 16-28.
I believe this season may prove to be a long season for Widnes in the halves, but a youthful sprinkle with experience in the kickers may prove a good balance for them… it all depends how quickly they can bond as a half back pairing, whether it be Gilmore with Bridge or Mellor on his return. They will need to stay injury free I believe otherwise they may struggle.