WIDNES Vikings began their preparations for the 2010 season in earnest yesterday by signalling the end of the road for eight first-team players – including several Northern Rail Cup final heroes.
Gavin Dodd, John Duffy, Richard Fletcher, Tim Hartley, Michael Ostick and Brett Robinson have all now left the club, while Danny Mills and Lee Paterson have also been released.
However, powerhouse forward Iain Morrison, who was this week named in Steve McCormack’s Scotland squad for the forthcoming European Championships, has been confirmed as one of 20 first-teamers who will remain at Stobart Stadium Halton next term.
Despite finding it difficult to wave goodbye to some of Widnes’s loyal servants, sporting director Terry O’Connor believes the changes will help the club move in the right direction.
“A number of players are leaving the club and on behalf of the coaching staff I’d like to thank them for their contributions this season and wish them well for the future,” he said.
“I know some of the players leaving would prefer to stay and we would like to keep them but with the reduction of the salary cap to £300,000, we have to spend accordingly.
“There is the option to spend up to £400,000 but we need to be sure that our revenue breaks the £1m barrier in order to do so. Increases in season ticket sales, gate receipts, sponsorship and Dream Ticket sales would let us take advantage of this facility.
“The 2010 squad sees new additions in Steve Pickersgill, who made a big impression during his loan spell in 2009 and James Ford who will give us some more firepower in the three-quarters.
“We are also keen to develop our own players and I’m delighted that Dave Houghton and Dean Thompson have made sufficient progress to gain promotion to the first team squad.”
The sporting director also revealed Vikings’ recruitment is still a work in progress. He and head coach Paul Cullen have already identified up to seven more players to join on a permanent or dual registration basis.
“Having tasted success in the Northern Rail Cup this season we are keen to defend our trophy and with a little more consistency next time round I am sure we will be there or thereabouts,” said O’Connor.
Widnesian former Vikings star and West Bank Bears junior Richie Myler is one of three players to have been shortlisted for the engage Super League Young Player of the Year award.
Salford City Reds' Warrington Wolves-bound scrum half will contest the honours with Kyle Eastmond of St Helens and Wigan Warriors' Sam Tomkins. The winner will be announced at the Man of Steel dinner in Manchester on Monday.
Ex-Widnes St Marie's youth full-back Jonny Leather of Blackpool Panthers has been named Co-operative Championship One's Young PoY.