It’s been far from an ideal season for Widnes, but one positive has been the emergence of a number of promising academy talents into the first team.
One of those is forward Owen Farnworth, who has made a number of appearances in the last couple of years. We recently caught up with him to find out more about his career so far, his team-mates and the Vikings’ chances ahead of the Qualifiers…
2018 has almost certainly been your breakthrough year in the first team. How special has it been for you making your mark on the first team at the club that you’ve been at since you were 14?
“I made my debut in 2017 against Leeds at Headingley on Easter Monday which was a very special occasion. My family were all there, it was a packed stadium and the atmosphere was unreal.
“I was on the field for a big chunk of the game, was voted Widnes man of the match, and sharing my debut with Liam Walsh was a special moment. We’ve played at Widnes Vikings together since we were 14 and at England together too.
“2018 has given me chances to play at first team level four times including the Festive Derby against Warrington. The other games have been against Catalans, Hull FC and Salford and hopefully I will get the opportunity again this year.
“Being given the recognition and the opportunity is great, it’s what I’ve worked for and I am grateful for this and the skills I continue to learn.”
Did anything surprise you about Super League, and how have you felt you’ve been able to cope with the step up from the younger age groups?
“I have played for Widnes since the age of 14, through scholarship and academy and been lucky enough to be selected to represent England at both levels and prior to that played at Chorley Panthers.
“At under 16s I made the England squad but didn’t get a chance to play, which was difficult to deal with at the time but you get your head down and keep going. I was lucky to then get selected for the England tour to Australia along with Brad Walker, Liam Walsh and Danny Walker which was a fantastic experience.
“Through my career so far I have played with and against some great players and players of different size and physicality which gives a great base but stepping up to Super League is a faster game. Players are physically bigger and have more experience, and playing to bigger crowds and bigger venues is different too.
“I train with the first team and the lads are really supportive and that helps a lot with making the step up but I’ve still got a lot to learn. Throughout my time at Widnes all the coaches have helped with my progression in the game and given me opportunities to play and I am grateful for this.”
The Vikings dressing room has a good variety of characters and personalities, which will only be enhanced when Anthony Gelling joins next season. As players, are you looking forward to welcoming someone of his personality and rugby quality to the dressing room?
“The Vikings dressing room is full of characters and despite a difficult run we are all supportive and spend time together and are a close bunch, and this has been the same throughout the club.
“Gelling will bring some more experience to the team and positive energy on and off the field and I’m sure he will be an important member of the team and he knows a few of the lads already. I’ve watched him play a few times for Wigan and look forward to playing and training with him.”
Aside from yourself, who else do you feel has really excelled in 2018 for the first team and tried to cement their spot in the side?
“There are a few players I have played with through the academy that are all making their way into the squad, and we all want to play so there is competition.
“JJ [Jordan Johnstone], Brad [Walker], Danny [Walker], Keenan [Brand], Lloyd [Roby], Liam [Walsh], Ollie [Ashall-Bott] and Owen Buckley are all showing what they can do and when we all played together at the Academy we were a strong team.
“There’s been a few injuries but we’re all ready to go and I hope we will be part of the future for the Vikings. I watched Ollie and Buckers last week and it was good to see them make an impact but hard to pick just one.
“A lot of the players in the Vikings squad are young and we’ll hopefully develop together and take our opportunities as they come.”
How are the boys feeling ahead of the Qualifiers? Do you think it’ll be the toughest one yet considering the quality of the Championship sides?
“We have to keep positive, we are training hard, players are coming back from injury and although we know it’s not an easy time we need to keep focused and do our best and play for each other.
“Some of the teams from the Championship are strong and deserve to be in the play offs so there are no easy games in the Qualifiers and we need to respect these teams. We all want to stay up.”
Obviously results haven’t really gone your way this season, for a variety of reasons. Team spirit is a massive thing, so who in the camp really helps to get the boys motivated and lifts the mood?
The losses don’t help and there have been difficult moments after games and match reviews but you need to keep going and the more experienced/older members of the team support us with this and keep us positive.
“There are some really good friendships within the lads and coaching staff so that helps in keeping us motivated. The established players within the team have given me a lot of support and that really helps.”