Loyal crew stick with revived Widnes

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The Independent Online

Widnes have begun their team-building for next season by re-signing five members of this year's squad.

The club went into administration two days after losing the National League One Grand Final to Castleford last month, effectively making all their players free agents and also causing them to be docked nine points for next season. Many have moved on but some have committed their future to the Vikings under the new ownership of the transport millionaire Steve O'Connor.

They include the club captain, Mark Smith, who was linked with a return to Wigan, and Bob Beswick, who was interesting Leeds. The others are the wingers, Dean Gaskell and Gavin Dodd, and the forward, Paul Noone. All are thought to have been strongly influenced by Steve McCormack's decision to stay on as coach after initially agreeing to join Hull KR.

Smith said: "I've had three very enjoyable years with the Vikings and when Steve rang me to tell me that he was continuing as coach I had no hesitation in re-signing."

The Rugby Football League has accepted the resignation of Abi Ekoku as the Great Britain team manager after two years in the role. The League is to consult with the new national team coach, Tony Smith, before deciding how to replace Ekoku. "With the introduction of the England team from 2008, it seemed an appropriate time to step down," said the former London and Bradford winger.

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