WIDNES Vikings second rower Chris Dean will retire from rugby league at the end of the current season.

The 31-year-old former St Helens junior has enjoyed three spells with the club, signing permanently in 2012.

During the current Betfred Championship season Dean has played a pivotal role for the Vikings crossing the whitewash at Wembley.

At the start of the campaign, the second rower led the team out against Halifax on his 200th career appearance and has captained the side in the absence of Hep Cahill.

Phil Finney, Chief Executive at Widnes Vikings said: “Chris has been an instrumental figure in helping Kieron and the first team squad get through a remarkably difficult period for the club.

“His maturity, experience, and character came to the fore and has been really helpful in the progression of the young players within the first team.

“Chris has put his hand up to play in games this year, when other players would not have been able to due to injury, which is testament to him as a person and as a rugby league player.

“Chris has been a fantastic player and servant to Widnes Vikings over the previous eight years, and on behalf of everyone at the club, we wish him and his young family all the best for the future.”

Dean said: “At the end of the current season, I have decided to retire from playing rugby league, this was a decision I haven’t taken lightly.

“It is the right time in my life to explore other options away from playing, options I think are the best options for my family and myself.

“I would firstly like to thank St Helens for giving me the opportunity to play professionally and achieve my goals of playing in Super League.

“I’d like to also thank Wakefield for allowing me to progress as a first team player, both are fantastic clubs that I am grateful for everything they did for me.

“I would now like to thank Widnes Vikings for allowing me the privilege of playing for such a great, historic club.

“Not a game went by that I took for granted pulling on the black and white shirt, and I’ve realised how lucky I have been over the past eight years to represent you.

“To all my coaches, physios, conditioners, office staff, thank you for helping to guide my career and allowing me to play so many games for Widnes Vikings RLFC.

“Next, I would like to thank all of my teammates throughout the years. It has been a pleasure to train and play with you, and I consider you all mates for life.

“To all the Widnes fans, the support you have given over the past eight years has been unrivalled. You’ve given fantastic support at home and away, and what you did for this club this year is testament to you and the spirit of the town. A massive thank you for making the last eight years the best in my career.

“Finally I would like to thank all my family and friends for the support throughout my career. Firstly, I’d like to thank my mum and dad for travelling to nearly every game, both amateur and professional. Also, I’d like to thank my wife, Becky, for being with me for 10 years of my career, and having to put up with the ups and downs of being married to a rugby player.

“If it wasn’t for those three people in my life, I wouldn’t have played for so long.

“I will be sticking around at games next season and beyond, as a fan of Widnes Vikings. I would like to wish everyone involving nothing but success, and hopefully see Kieron and the lads back in Super League very soon.

“Thanks for the memories. Up The Vikings.”