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Vikings make strides, but Betts anticipates further improvement
VIKINGS boss Denis Betts believes his side is on the march after making huge strides in 2013 – but expects further improvement next term.
Speaking at Salford after seeing Widnes win their third consecutive match for the first time since their return to the top flight, Betts saw plenty of positives without under-estimating the work that is still needed.
Last year’s wooden spoonists finished the year in tenth – and arguably would have climbed a place higher had Huddersfield not sent a depleted team to ninth-placed Bradford.
And they gained further credits by lowering the colours of two of their illustrious neighbours this term, completing the double over Warrington and beating Saints for the first time in 19 years.
Betts said: “We are still on the journey to being a top eight side. We are not far away and that is the next step.
“What you have seen in the last month is our ability to get into a fight and stay in it and come out the other side of it.
“The experience has been good for us.
“We are not going to make wholesale changes and try and ship a load of players in to try and change the make-up of the side. “But we have got players in there that we want to work on in improving and make some recruits who are going to advance us.”
Although Widnes have lost Ben Cross, Frank Winterstein and on-loan Gareth Hock, they have already secured the services of experienced second rows Danny Tickle and Danny Galea.
And they have been further boosted this week with the extension of Willie Isa’s contract.
Betts added: “Willie’s attitude, enthusiasm and character are second to none.
“He is a great human being who’s fantastic to have about the place.
“He gives you everything and you can’t knock that.
“He looks after himself and trains hard every week, and he’s been defining his place in the team. “Over the last month, he’s found himself.
“He asked for an opportunity to prove himself as a middle-unit player and he’s been proved right.
“We’re trying our best as an organisation to keep those kinds of people here, and I am delighted that Willie will still be with us in 2014.”
Looking at the squad, Betts is still clear that the big weakness remains the front row, particularly following Cross’s retirement, but feels other bases are more than adequately covered.
“We need front rowers, I am looking to replace Ben Cross with a strong prop, we are strong in the half backs and have a lot of faith in what we have got.
“We have a young kid called Tom Gilmore who is a half back who I need to get some game time to.
“Rhys is going to be even better at full back next year, my outside backs are pretty strong.
We are not a very big squad but now got a bit more Super League experience, we are stronger and wiser and know how it is to play at this level week in, week out.”
Betts was particularly pleased with the form of Welsh international Lloyd White since his return from injury.
“Lloyd is a going to be sensational player and I am just pleased that he has got back now and managed to get some game time and now he has an opportunity to play in the World Cup,” Betts said.
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