They might have declared that they intend to keep a full-time squad together for next season, but the break-up of Widnes' Super League side has already begun.
The Vikings, who are at home to Wigan today, are five points adrift of Salford in the battle to avoid the second relegation place and have begun to plan for life in National League One. Their intention is to do what Castleford have done and retain enough full-time professionals to try to get straight back up again. The problem is that the players who are good enough and young enough will prefer to move elsewhere.
Shane Millard is a case in point. The Australian hooker was among Widnes' best players until injury started to blunt his effectiveness in mid-season and he has shown that he is a genuine Super League player. All the same, the move to Leeds on a one-year contract is a dream one for Millard. The Rhinos tried to sign him when their first-choice hooker, Matt Diskin, was injured at the end of last season. Now they have enlisted him, essentially as back-up to Diskin. He will come off the bench in the same way that Andrew Dunemann does and will take Dunemann's place on the overseas quota.
Millard's impending departure does not have any immediate impact on Widnes' slender survival hopes, as he is sidelined for the season following knee surgery. Aaron Moule, another Australian affected by injury, could be the next to exit, if Salford follow up their interest.
With their superior points difference, Salford, who are at Bradford today, are effectively three wins ahead of Widnes, with only five games to go. Mind you, they can only be grateful that they got some victories early, because it is not clear where their next one is coming from; probably not before the last day of the season at Leigh.
A side in better form might be able to exploit a few uncertainties at Odsal, with Leon Pryce leaving and Stuart Reardon and Jamie Peacock set to follow, but Salford do not look capable of doing so.
Leigh have also announced that they want to remain full-time next season, although it will be hard to make the numbers add up. They are on their farewell tour of Super League and, despite drawing with Hull earlier, are unlikely to provide them with much more than a good run-out for the Challenge Cup final.Reuse content