Rugby League: Widnes go West in search for survival

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The Independent Online
Graeme West, sacked by Wigan at the start of the season, has taken over as coach at their erstwhile great rivals, Widnes, who are bottom of the First Division.

The club's head coach, Bernard Long, and their football manager, Doug Laughton, have left "by mutual agreement" but have clearly paid the price for a once-powerful side's dismal start to the campaign.

The team's lack of stability is illustrated by their use of 45 players so far this season and they have lost eight games in succession, culminating in a 44-6 home defeat by Hull on Sunday, after which Long was jeered from the pitch.

Long was appointed coach at the start of this season, while Laughton was in his third stint at the helm of a club he first coached almost 20 years ago.

"The board felt we needed changes because of our poor start," the Widnes chairman, Tony Chambers, said.

"We rate Graeme very highly. His first priority is to win at Workington on Friday and then to keep us in the First Division."

West, who has signed a two-year contract, was with Wigan for 14 years before being sacked in February after refusing to move upstairs and become football manager.

He has since turned down a chance to coach Halifax, but has made it clear that he wanted to stay in England rather than return to his native New Zealand.

The former Wigan player, Andy Platt, has replaced Steve Blakeley as captain of Salford. The club's coach, Andy Gregory, said that a combination of the responsibility and the after-effects of two groin operations had affected Blakeley's form.

"The added responsibility of the captaincy has been playing on his mind and he should feel more freedom playing under Andy Platt, who is our most experienced player," Gregory said.

Platt will lead the side for the first time tomorrow night against St Helens, who could be without Andy Northey as well as a string of injured players.

Northey has been cited over an incident in last Friday's draw with London, when he appear to knee Martin Offiah in the back. Saints will still be without Alan Hunte, Paul Newlove, Tommy Martyn and Chris Joynt, but their coach, Shaun McRae, says that they will not be panicked into the transfer market.

The Super League leaders, Bradford, could also be without a player for their forthcoming games, if Graeme Bradley is found guilty of a suspected high tackle on Nigel Vagana.

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