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Widnes are dead certs to be granted Super League status, according to Ian Millward
Topic Started: Mar 11 2011, 08:23 PM (292 Views)
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THE Co-operative Championship gets underway this weekend and naturally much of our focus will be on the fortunes of Widnes Vikings.

They kick off their campaign at Bramall Lane against Sheffield Eagles tomorrow with the bookies rating them 4/1 third favourites to win the Grand Final come October.

By the end of this month, the Vikings will know whether they will be playing in Super League in 2012.

It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, that decision has on the rest of their season.

This week I caught up with Leigh Centurions coach Ian Millward, who believes the elevation of the Vikings to the top-flight is a near certainty and feels it will give them a boost for the rest of the campaign.

Millward said: “It’s a million-to-one on Widnes will go up.

“But I think that should inspire their players.

“They’re either going to want to join the train to Super League or earn themselves a good contact with another Championship club for 2012.

“Obviously, the whole squad won’t be able to go to Super League with them.

“Some won’t be good enough or may not be in the right age bracket. But any player that’s challenged should want to improve and there will be a buzz around the club the players should feed off.”

Since joining Leigh at the beginning of last season, Millward has been impressed with the standard in the Championship.

He also feels top-flight coaches often miss the boat when it comes to recruiting players from the second tier.

“There are a lot of good players in the Championship which seems to go under the radar as far as Super League is concerned.

“It seems that if you’ve been looked at and then maybe drop out of Super League, the coaches don’t want to bring you back in.

“But if you take prop forwards for example, they often don’t start maturing until their mid to late twenties.

“People often say the game lacks depth in this country but I think Super League coaches should have a closer look at players in the Championship.”

As far as the coming season is concerned, Millward believes there are five main contenders for the Championship crown.

“I think the teams in with a realistic chance of winning it are Leigh, Halifax, Featherstone, Barrow and Widnes.

“They’re probably the stronger clubs, and probably the more ambitious ones too.

“Anyone coming from outside of those five would be a real surprise.

“There will be other teams who have their moments but they may struggle to do it consistently.”

Pressed to pick out one team, other than his own, Millward sees Featherstone Rovers as the team to beat in 2011.

Under the guidance of newly-appointed England assistant-coach Darryl Powell, the Yorkshiremen finished top of the table last season though they were pipped at the post in the Grand Final by Halifax.

But having had a fairly radical turnover in personnel in the closed season, former Saints and Wigan boss Millward believes his own Centurions side should not be overlooked.

“I think Featherstone are the benchmark

“They were the most consistent team last year and I thought the way the semi-finals format worked out last year disadvantaged them.

“They led all the way in the Grand Final but lost it in the last five minutes.

“At Leigh we let eleven players go, brought four in and brought four kids up too.

“We’re a lot more advanced at this stage than we were last year.

“I’m happy with the way we’re going and I’m happy with the guys I’ve got.”

How the bookies see it (to win the Co-operative Championship Grand Final): Featherstone 5/2, Leigh 5/2, Widnes 4/1, Halifax 4/1, Barrow 7/1, Dewsbury 16/1
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