Even though there hasn’t been a game for nine months, it’s still been an eventful few months at Widnes.

The shock departure of Tim Sheens resulted in Simon Finnigan being brought in as the club’s fourth new coach in little over two years, while we continue to wait for news about when the Championship season in 2021 will get underway.

In the meantime, decisions are being made around changes to the league’s make-up – with one of Toulouse, London, Bradford, Featherstone, Leigh or York stepping up to Super League, and in their place a club coming up from League One. Newcastle, Workington, Barrow and Doncaster are among those clubs to chuck their hat in the ring for promotion.

With uncertainty over who will make up the 14-team Championship, there are as yet no clear odds on the favourites for promotion to Super League in 2021, so keep an eye on SBO for the title betting run down closer to the start of the season.

The new signings

The first new face for 2021 was announced back at the start of August in the shape of versatile forward Matt Cook. The 33-year-old won the Super League League Leaders’ Shield in 2017. As with all the signings, Sheens was cited as a big reason why he joined the club, making the Australian’s departure ever the more puzzling. Cook said: “One of the big reasons for me to sign at Widnes and not any other Championship club is that my Dad is a born and bred Widnes lad. He’s chuffed to bits as well. He will be very proud when I finally make my debut for Widnes and it will be a great moment for me in my career.”

Another experienced forward has arrived in the shape of Lee Jewitt, another 33-year-old, who most notably played more than 100 games for Salford. He has had spells with Castleford and Hull KR, and was with Barrow in 2020. His signature was announced on the day that four departures from the club were revealed. Jewitt said: “It’s probably one of the biggest clubs in the sport with its past, so it was an easy decision for me.”

Returning to the club is hometown centre Steve Tyrer. The 31-year-old scored 410 points in 38 appearances, the majority of which came in the 2011 season having previously appeared on loan in 2008 and 2009. He was perhaps unfortunate not to get included in Denis Betts’ first Super League squad in 2012, and instead has spent the past nine years at the top end of the Championship with Halifax, who were this week rebranded to Halifax Panthers.

Also returning to the club is forward Paul Clough, who made 15 appearances in 2014 before mysteriously falling out of favour. The following year, he played 32 times for Bradford and moved on to Huddersfield in 2017, where he made 82 appearances before leaving by mutual consent earlier this year.

A 24-man squad confirmed to date

With 16 players from the 2020 squad retained to date, a further four have been added from the reserves to give a 24-man squad for Finnigan to work with as pre-season begins.

  • Jack Owens (full-back)
  • Daniel Hill (full-back)
  • Oliver Brookes (winger)
  • Owen Buckley (winger)
  • Deon Cross (winger)
  • Joe Edge (winger)
  • Jayden Hatton (winger)
  • Lloyd Roby (centre)
  • Jake Spedding (centre)
  • Steve Tyrer (centre)
  • Danny Craven (stand-off)
  • Joe Lyons (half-back)
  • Matty Smith (half-back)
  • Paul Clough (prop)
  • Lee Jewitt (prop)
  • Owen Farnworth (prop)
  • Calum O’Neill (prop)
  • Will Tilleke (prop)
  • Logan Tomkins (hooker)
  • Matt Cook (back-row)
  • Connor Dwyer (back-row)
  • Shane Grady (back-row)
  • Josh Wilde (back-row)
  • Kenny Baker (loose forward)

Interview with Simon Finnigan

It was good to see the club publish a video interview with Simon Finnigan, on his first proper day in the job as the club started pre-season.

Don’t forget to join in the chat ahead of the new season on the Widnes Rugby forum.