WIDNES Vikings have offered contracts to all players aged 22 and under, as the club progresses in its bid to retain its most promising talent and make an immediate return to the Betfred Super League.

Earlier this month, the Vikings offered to maintain the contracts of this cohort of talented young players, who have come through the Vikings' youth system.

The Vikings Academy system has identified and developed an incredible pool of local talent, including 16 youth internationals. Vikings' aim is to secure the services of both players who can support the bid for immediate promotion in 2019 and contribute to the club’s long-term future beyond this.

The club say negotiations with several players are close to reaching their conclusion.

Widnes Vikings Head of Youth Performance, Phil Finney, who has played a key role in these discussions, said: “The Widnes youth system has been the cornerstone of the club’s plans for long-term sustainability and future success, so it is important that we strive to retain the best of our talent.

"These players have grown up in this club, feel pride in representing Widnes, and believe in what we can achieve together. Therefore, I am hopeful that we will see a large degree of commitment to these offers.”

He adds, “I am pleased that the club has recognised the value of these players and made this offer in such tough circumstances.”

James Rule, CEO of Widnes Vikings, said: “Our young players have been the defining success of the club’s strategy in recent years and our Youth Performance team have invested years in their development, so it is important that we aim to uphold their contracts.

"Several weeks ago, we made a statement of intent by offering to honour the Super League contracts of these young men, irrespective of whether we remained in Super League or were relegated to the Championship.

"We wanted to demonstrate by our actions how highly we value them and our firm belief that they are the foundations upon which we can re-build the club.

"We look forward to confirming which of these young players have stepped up and made a commitment to our club as a consequence of our offer.

"We are now also in the process of having the individual conversations with senior players and staff alike, to establish who will remain with the Club, whilst also exploring external recruitment opportunities.

"With a 30-day window in which both players and the club can confirm their intention to renew or terminate contracts, the futures of all existing contracted players must be determined within the next month.

"These are critical weeks for the club, as we look to retain our best young talent and ensure that we have skilled and experienced senior players alongside them in our bid to return to Super League. "Understanding our likely available budget for 2019 is vital to this process. We are thankful to our everyone who has assisted the club to rebuild for 2019, by committing to Stronghold Membership and sponsorship - you are playing a real role in our drive to return to the Super League.”