Widnes Vikings RLFC’s 10 Greatest Players
Widnes Vikings R.L.F.C. was founded way back in 1875. The club was one of the original members of the Northern Rugby Football Union, making the Vikings one of the world’s first rugby league teams.
Widnes may have been out of the limelight over the last decade, but in the 1970s, ’80s, and early ’90s, the club rolled through a sustained period of success. During this time, the club was known as the “Cup Kings,” as they reached the Challenge Cup Final an impressive seven times in a 10 year span between 1975 and 1984.
With all that success, it would make sense that a number of names on this list are from that purple patch in the club’s history. Here are the 10 best players in almost 150 years of Widnes rugby league:
10. Martin Offiah
Martin ‘Chariots’ Offiah may be best known for his glittering career at Wigan, but the London-born player first made his name elsewhere in the Northwest of England at Widnes. Interestingly, Offiah could have started at St. Helens had the board of directors not labelled the winger as an “uncoordinated clown” in one of the worst personnel decisions in the history of the sport!
Offiah was an instant success at Widnes and became the talk of the sport with an incredible 42 tries in his first season playing the game after switching from rugby union. He continued his strike rate for four years with the club, netting an astonishing 181 tries in 145 games while also moonlighting for a couple of clubs in Australia.
9. Harry Millington
Harry Millington played for Widnes back in the formative days of the sport, making his debut during the 1927/28 season and representing the club until the 1946/47 campaign. During his long career, he made 460 appearances for The Chemics and scored 65 tries from his favoured loose forward spot, in an era when it was not considered to be a try scoring position.
Millington was two out of three in Challenge Cup Final appearances for Widnes, winning in 1930 (aagainst St. Helens) and 1937 (against Keighley), but losing in 1934 (against Hunslet).
8. Mick Adams
Mick Adams was a part of the ‘Cup Kings’ era at Widnes where he made 415 appearances for the club at second row or loose forward in the 1970s and early 1980s. Adams scored 68 tries during that time and the Widnes-native also played for England and Great Britain with a combined 19 caps. Adams was known as being an excellent scrummager, in an era where that was vitally important, and he was one of the original members in the Widnes Hall of Fame.
7. Keith Elwell
Keith Elwell had a long and successful career playing for The Chemics, beginning in 1970 and ending in 1986. He played an astonishing 591 games for the club (a club record) and currently holds the rugby league world record for consecutive games played with a total of 239, from the 1976-77 Challenge Cup Final, through to a game in September 1982.
Elwell scored 87 tries in his Widnes career and also represented England twice and Great Britain on three occasions when he was at his pomp.
6. Kurt Sorensen
Kurt Sorensen is only not in the Widnes Hall of Fame because it has not been updated since its inception and first class of entrants. The Chemics were the fifth club that the New Zealander played for during his career, but outside of a spell during his Cronulla-Sutherland days, his stint in Lancashire from 1985 to 1993 was by far the most successful of his career. He appeared 252 times for Widnes during that span, scoring 40 tries in the process.
Sorensen, who is of Danish and Tongan descent, was a rampaging forward who had that devastating running style favoured by Polynesians, which made him a nightmare to tackle. He was the Widnes captain of the side that won the Championship, the Premiership and the 1989 World Club Challenge.
5. Jim Mills
‘Big Jim’ Mills was a player who dominated the game with his size in a career that spanned multiple clubs between 1965 and 1980. At 193 cm tall and weighing close to 115 kgs, Big Jim was a Welsh rugby union convert who played with a fearsome physicality and tough tackling style.
Mills had two separate stints with Widnes, representing the club between 1972-76 and then again from 1977-80 to close out his career. In those spells he played 188 times for The Vikings and scored 35 tries from his prop forward spot. Teams could often not deal with Mills ball-handling and speed given his already fearsome combination of size and strength.
4. Frank Myler
Frank Myler played 369 times for The Chemics between 1955 and 1967 before moving on to represent St. Helens and Rochdale. He scored 144 tries and seven goals during his career with Widnes and also turned out for Great Britain 24 times and England once.
Myler was the last British captain to lift the Ashes trophy on Australian soils, as he was captain of the 1970 Lions tour down under. He was an assured and consistently excellent centre who had few holes in his game. This meant he was also a natural leader and an obvious choice for captaincy at both the club and International level. A long strider, who had a natural swerve to beat defenders, Myler was also one of the first players to effectively use the flick pass to put teammates through gaps.
3. Mick Burke
Mick Burke won two Challenge Cups with Widnes in a playing career that spanned 308 games for the club from 1978-87. Burke was the primary point scoring option for the Vikings during much of that span as he scored 64 tries, 708 goals, and two field goals. Burke was also capped 15 times by Great Britain and once by England.
Burke was a smart player who was always able to get the best out of the players around him. He had a solid all-around kicking game to go with excellent hands and outstanding vision and positional sense. While not the fastest he always seemed to be in the right place when Widnes needed him in attack or defense.
2. Nat Silcock
Nat Silcock is without doubt in the conversation as the best forward ever to play for Widnes. Silcock made 434 appearences for Widnes from 1922 to 1939, scoring 42 tries in the process. Silcock played during the contested scrum era and he was known as a powerful forward who went on two tours to Australia during his career. In an era of limited international opportunity he played three times for England and 12 times for Great Britain.
Silcock was a pioneer is his playing style. Not just a brute force runner, Silcock was a fast player who was known for his ability to outpace three-quarters to go in for tries.
1. Tommy McCue
Tommy McCue made 339 appearances for the Chemics between 1931 and 1949. During that period he scored 106 tries and two goals as he led the team around the field from the scrum half position. McCue also picked up 11 England caps and a further six caps for Great Britain.
There are some, to this day, that will argue that McCue isn’t only the best scrum half in Widnes history, but that he is the best scrum half in the history of the game. He had all the elements you need in a scrum half, from an analytical, quick thinking brain to instant acceleration to take him through holes in the defense. There was no obvious flaw in his game.
Can’t believe it does not include Jonathan Davies xx
Coz he jumped ship and went to the wire
He didn’t jump ship we were on our arses financially he had to go
Martin offiah refused to play and sold us out for Wigan and he’s made the line up!
Two big omissions. Tony Myler being one and Ernest Swinton the other.
Fair call, Paul. Who would you leave out for these two?
Tough one to call, but certainly can’t have a Widnes top 10 without Tony Myler. Considering Widnes’ greatest ever team was late 80s, there’s probably a few in that side you could put in, in place of those in there. The Hulme brothers and Moose would be in with a shout in my opinion, though you can’t really argue with the stats of some of the players you have in there to be fair.
Ernie Swinton’s story is one that fascinates me. If I find the article about him, I’ll post it up.
The one and only Vincent Karalius – Ray Dutton on his day was a match winner best ever Widnes full back.