Could Widnes be the only north west club in the Championship in 2021?

As we head to the business end of the season, there is once again talk of a rugby league re-structuring.

Leigh, parachuted in to Super League following the demise of Toronto Wolfpack, may yet earn a reprieve in the top flight despite losing every game this year; with increasing calls for relegation to be scrapped due to the disruption caused by coronavirus.

If that is the case, credit to Derek Beaumont for proving you’re always better being inside the tent spitting out, than outside the tent spitting in.

With Oldham and Swinton currently occupying the Championship relegation zone, if all that comes to fruition, Widnes would be the only north west team left.

Cumbrians Barrow are heavy favourites in online sportsbooks like Sportsbet.io rugby outrights. to win League 1 and could be joined by Rochdale or Workington.

But while this would mean no real local derbies for Widnes, what it could help with is in player recruitment.

With no other part-time outfits in the vicinity, Widnes could in theory have first go at any north west based players.

One name mooted recently was St Helens’ Challenge Cup winner Kyle Amor, who may opt to go part-time from 2022 if his deal with the champions isn’t renewed.

Clearly, Leigh dropping down to the Championship would add considerable competition to the market for Widnes in attracting players who want to play in the second tier.

And Barrow are likely to throw money around too, although the travelling to Cumbrian is likely to be off-putting for certain players.

If, as expected, Widnes retain the majority of the 2021 squad, the focus for Simon Finnigan will surely be on quality rather than quantity.

It will be interesting to see what sort of fall out there is from Super League clubs at the end of the year too.

Someone like Ellis Robson, for example, at Warrington may well have a better chance of landing a full-time deal if Super League increases to 14-teams.

And with the top flight teams realising they need more depth to their squads, players who might otherwise become high-end Championship players on a part-time basis, are instead being kept on as full-time professional squad players in the top flight – something that many of the current generation prefer.

It seems that the rugby league production line is becoming “all or nothing”. If players can’t make it as full-time professionals, they aren’t interested in making the sacrifices to play part-time, when they can just focus on a career elsewhere.

The challenge for Widnes, and others, is to ensure that playing part-time rugby remains attractive.

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