Since losing their Super League status in 2018, Widnes Vikings have become poster-boys for mid-table mediocrity in the Championship.
The Vikings narrowly escaped liquidation the following year, but were saved as their loyal band of fans dug deep to save their beloved club.
While they have not had too much to cheer about since then, there were some signs of improvement on the field last season.
Three successive defeats at the end of the regular season campaign scuppered their play-offs hopes, but gave fans renewed hope about the future.
With Widnes eager to mount a sustained bid for a top-six spot this season, the recent addition of three younger talents to their squad could be particularly noteworthy.
Wigan Warriors forward Harvey Wilson has joined the club on a season-long loan as a replacement for Martyn Reilly, who recently sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
The prop forward showed plenty of promise for Oldham while on dual-registration from Wigan during their League One campaign in 2023 and has been tipped to shine with Widnes.
Head coach Allan Coleman said: “It’s great to get Harvey on loan with us. He’s a player I have been watching over the last twelve months and his progress has been excellent, being rewarded a full-time contract with Wigan.
“He will bring us lots of energy, and passion and is a player who plays well above his size. He has got the hunger to make it in the game and that is something I am keen on bringing to Widnes.”
Wilson’s addition to the squad boosts a position the Vikings have been desperately trying to strengthen over the past few months.
Experienced Republic of Ireland international Kyle Amor signed for the club at the start of last season and featured heavily during the early part of the campaign.
However, persistent shoulder and knee injuries forced Amor to retire from playing – a factor which undoubtedly hindered the Vikings’ play-off hopes.
They had a 7-5 record after the 12th round of games, which led to several betting sites in Ireland cutting their odds in the ‘top-six finish’ market.
Widnes subsequently posted a 6-9 record with the Irish international out of the equation – a run which dropped them to ninth place in the final standings.
With loanee Wilson now on board at the DCBL Stadium, punters may view the Vikings as genuine play-off contenders this time around.
Their confidence will likely have been boosted by the addition of talented youngsters Lucas Green and Tom Whitehead on dual-registration from Warrington Wolves for the 2024 season.
Both players have featured in the Super League for Warrington, and have been tipped to enjoy breakout campaigns at Championship level this term.
“It’s fantastic for us to get Lucas and Tom on the dual-reg,” Coleman added. “I would like to thank Chris Hamilton (Head of Integrated Operations) and Gary Chambers (Warrington Director of Rugby) for their help on this.
“To get them on board so early in the season is fantastic. They both played Super League last year for Warrington and showed the talent they have.
“I am a big admirer of young, up-and-coming players because they want to prove to everyone that they can go all the way. When you add them to the experienced championship players we have, I think that could be a great mix.”