SKIPPER Joe Mellor will return to the Widnes Vikings starting line-up at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Friday as long as he passes this week’s fitness tests.
Tom Gilmore, who recovered from ankle trouble to feature in the halves as Widnes gained their season’s first win at Leigh Centurions on Saturday, or hat-trick hero Danny Craven would need to make way.
Head coach Denis Betts could, for the first time this season, have a positive selection dilemma in the all-important play-making department, while also potentially welcoming back Corey Thompson and Pat Ah Van in a week when Stefan Marsh (concussion), Greg Burke (concussion) and MacGraff Leuluai (back) are hoping to overcome troubles sustained at Leigh Sports Village.
“Joe has been training this week and is right on the edge of being cleared to play,” said Betts, who added that Chris Dean has a good chance of being available for the following Thursday’s visit by Warrington Wolves.
“We’ve got some pretty stringent protocols here, especially for somebody of Joey’s ilk with the way he plays hard – we’ve got to be pretty tough on saying when he’s ready.
“There is a temptation to stick with Danny and Tom after the weekend’s performance but you’ve got to pick your best players.
“The debate in the office is always that – do you pick people who are playing well and on form, or do you pick your best players?
“Well, Joe is the captain of the side, he’s got to play. He knows that. Once he’s playing, then we can make the decision as to whether he’s playing well enough."
Betts added: “There’s a long way to go in this season and although our start’s not been fantastic if we can get our best 20 players fit and playing every week, then if those lads on the outside of that – after the experience they’ve had – can put pressure on that top 20 then it can make for a great training environment, it can make for a competitive team at the weekend and it keeps form good.
“I think every team is aiming for that.”
Mellor, made captain after the departure of Kevin Brown to Warrington, sustained a knee injury in pre-season. With Gilmore damaging an ankle in round one at home to Huddersfield, Betts filled the void with utility men Chris Bridge or Aaron Heremaia alongside Craven.
Now Mellor could be back in time to square up with his former half-back partner Brown when Wolves visit next week.