Betts keen to ditch Sunday games


Published: Wednesday 25th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Widnes coach Denis Betts has suggested ditching Sundays as a regular match day for Super League in order to avoid the short turnarounds for Thursday games.

Sky Sports switched their live coverage of their second match from Saturdays two years ago but the Thursday night fixtures come around at more frequent intervals for teams this season following the reduction of clubs in the top flight from 14 to 12.

Several clubs have risked the wrath of fans by re-scheduling matches at comparatively short notice to space out the games but Widnes have had just three days to prepare for Thursday’s trip to Salford after playing Hull KR last Sunday and Betts believes that is unfair on his players.

“It’s just too hard for some teams,” said the former Wigan and Great Britain forward. ” It’s not the same as it was five years ago, never mind 10 years ago, and to ask a team with a smaller squad to turn around after such a brutal encounter – with possibly one training day and two recovery days – is pretty tough.

“We’ve got to look at the league and the structure if our main sponsors and the people driving our sport want Thursday and Friday games to be on TV.

“I think Saturdays have worked for a few teams so if you look at Thursday, Friday and Saturday as being rugby league days, you are still going to get enough turnaround to be able to recover.

“Games used to be played on Saturdays for a lot of the years and then they moved to Sundays. So it’s not as if it’s always been Sundays.

“You’ve got to go with something, stick with it and let people buy into it. Some people didn’t think Friday nights would work but some of the Friday night games are some of the best to watch.”

On top of limited preparation time, Betts will be without six of his first-choice players for the Salford game through injury, including skipper Kevin Brown, although he is happy with his side have coped in his absence.

“Everyone thought we would fall over without Kevin but we’ve won games without him in the side,” Betts said.

“It shows the depth of our squad. From where we were two or three years ago, with the recruitment we’ve made, I’m pretty confident about putting some lads in there that can be trusted to start in the 17 and not just to fill in.

“People like Jack Owens, Grant Gore and Alex Gerrard are doing a fantastic job for us.

“l’m pretty happy with where we sit in the table and, hopefully, over the Easter period we get quite a few of those players back.”

The Vikings’ 20-16 win over Hull KR lifted them from bottom to fifth in the table but only one point separates the bottom eight clubs.

Widnes won three of their four meetings with Salford in 2014 but Betts acknowledges the progress the Red Devils have made under head coach Iestyn Harris, who succeeded Brian Noble just under 12 months ago.

“They’ve grown as a group since last year,” Betts said. “They look more like a team now.”

Salford ended last season with five wins from their last six home games and they have already beaten Hull and Wakefield at the AJ Bell Stadium this year.

However, their last appearance in front of the television cameras on a Thursday night ended in a humiliating 52-6 rout by St Helens and Harris is keen for his players to make amends while in the spotlight.

“It’s now time we performed on Sky as we have been quite inconsistent on previous occasions,” Harris said.

“This is a good group of players and they deserve to get the respect of people so this is an opportunity to perform on Thursday to a wider audience on TV.

“Our home form has been good and this game could make it eight wins out of 10 home matches. Continuing this throughout the season would put us at the right end of the table, so we need to keep up the momentum and, through the TV coverage, encourage crowds to come.”

Published: Wednesday 25th March 2015 by The News Editor

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