Fans’ View – Magic Weekend: Widnes v St Helens

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The first Super League match of the weekend sees Widnes face St Helens and the participants in Get ’em Onside’s Fans’ View are Barry May for the Saints, a man who has loyally followed the club for over forty years, and Paul O’Brien, 41, for Widnes, a man who has supported the Vikings for his whole life…

1) We are around halfway through the season now – how do you feel your team is doing?

Vikings: The team aren’t performing at the moment and we are lacking leadership on the field. Yes, there have been injuries but there are some serious lapses in concentration and poor decisions on the field which are costing us.

Saints: We could not have asked for a better start! Of course Ben Barba is a superstar which helps of course. I feel that he has brought the whole team up two levels and is nailed on for Man of Steel. Hopes are high for the remainder of the season and maybe some silverware. Even I, the original eternal pessimist, would be surprised if we didn’t reach some kind of final.

2) What is the best match you’ve been to or seen this season of your team and why?

Vikings: The win against Leeds in February (23-6). They had just returned from Australia and had a few players out but we performed really well as a team that day.

Saints: The best game I have seen involving Saints this season has to be the derby game on Good Friday – it never fails and the result was right as well. Shaun Wane could send thirteen sixteen year olds up here and they would compete. To be honest apart from Challenge Cup matches that will always be my favourite game of the year.

3) Who has been the team that have impressed you most so far and why?

Vikings: St Helens – everything seems to be clicking into place for them this season.

Saints: The team that has impressed me the most apart from my own has to be Warrington, they have flew under the radar. Warrington have made a steady incremental improvements which is the trick I think. I can see them being at a good level come the business end of the season.

4) Who is your team’s player of the season so far?

Vikings: Tom Olbison. He’s been playing really well this year. He tackles strong, puts in the hard yards and has scored a few tries as well. Sam Wilde has also been impressive.

Saints: Saints’ player of the year in my eyes has to be Ben Barba and I can’t see many people disagreeing with me on that one – but I also have been very impressed with one of my favourite players, Tommy Makinson. Saints have had a great year so far and it’s hard to pick someone out of a team that is performing so well.

5) Which player from your Magic Weekend opponents would you like to see in your team’s shirt?

Vikings: Ben Barba, definitely. He’s a fantastic player and has been the stand out player in Super League this season.

Saints: I have always liked Rhys Hanbury and heard a few years ago that Saints were looking to bring him in. He sees a gap and is clever around the ruck; I think he will go far in the game.

6) What are your hopes for your Magic Weekend match – do you think you can/will win?

Vikings: Playing St Helens, I don’t expect us to win. I just want to see a team giving 100% and having a go.

Saints: My hopes for the Magic Weekend game are very high. I won’t say it will be a walkover but I think that most Saints fans would be very disappointed if we don’t win that one. Of course you never know which Widnes are going to turn up, they have some great youngsters down there at the minute.

7) How do you think your season will end up?

Vikings: The way we are playing at the moment, we are definitely bottom four. We need to start playing better soon before the gap between the bottom and the top eight widens if we’re going to have a chance. The qualifiers will be the toughest yet for everyone involved.

Saints: Saints will no doubt go far in the play offs but I wouldn’t like to say whether they will win the Grand Final but they are certainly capable as Leeds and Wigan are. A good cup run is long overdue; I have a feeling that Saints may go to Wembley this year and a trophy of any kind would be brilliant.

8) What do you think of Magic Weekend?

Vikings: I think that Magic Weekend is a great concept although I think they need to change the way the fixtures are picked. There could be some very one sided games there and the weekend should be about promoting the game. This will be my first time at Magic and we are going up as a family to watch the game. My daughter is going to be one of the Widnes mascots so it should be a great day for us.

Saints: Magic Weekend is a great concept as it pushes the rugby league message into football country; it’s a bit disappointing when the games are being played in front of a half full stadium but it’s growing. I like the thought that not every player will have the opportunity to play at a neutral venue in a one off game. I went to the Millennium Stadium in Wales which was brilliant; the stadium was a little too big for our game.

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