WIDNES Vikings have appointed current Club captain Jon Clarke as its new Head of Strength and Conditioning.
Clarke, who will play his last home game of the regular season tomorrow at the Select Security Stadium against Wigan Warriors, will assume his position as a key member of Denis Betts’ back room team for pre-season as the Vikings prepare for the 2015 Super League campaign.
The Vikings have pulled off a major coup in keeping hold of the former Great Britain international after the 35-year-old turned down offers from rival Super League clubs to remain at Widnes.
Clarke said: “It’s a massive appointment for me and it’s what I’ve been working towards for the last four or five years. To move into a role like this straight from playing is brilliant for me and I feel very privileged. It’s a job that I can’t wait to do and I’m really excited about the future and working with this group of players. Hopefully we will finish the season in the right way and then I’ll move onto the next chapter.
“I did have the opportunity to move away from Widnes Vikings to take up similar roles elsewhere but my loyalty is with the Club and I never considered going anywhere else as I feel we are building something really special with a great group of people and to be a part of that is important to me.”
Betts said there was no way he was going to let someone of the caliber of Clarke move on from the Vikings after his playing days were over after working closely with the veteran hooker for over three years.
He said: “Jon’s been the captain of this Club for the past three years and I believe this to be a fantastic appointment for us. He’s armed himself for life after playing with all the education he’s got under his belt and he’s well respected throughout the game and not just with this playing group. You don’t let quality people leave your organisation and Jon is a quality person, not only with his personality and as a bloke but with the standards he sets.
“This is his Club now and he wants to make it better. That’s the reason why I wanted to appoint him. His influence has been there for the last three years and I didn’t want to lose that influence going forward. Jon wants to make our players better and I’ve every confidence in him that he’ll succeed.”
The appointment comes after a 17 year career at the very top and a handful of international honours and Challenge Cup winners medals whilst at Warrington Wolves. The hooker received a 2:1 in Sport and Exercise Science (SES) and later an MSc in Sports Science from the University of Chester.
Clarke added: “I have planned to move into this field over the last part of my career. It’s been hard work but usually had work pays off and it’s paid off for me here as I’m now Head of S&C at a fantastic Club that’s going places and I get to work with some great people, so in terms of conditioning jobs it doesn’t get much better.”
His first official contact with the players will happen before the First Team leave for the off season and Clarke says he can’t wait to get started.
He said: “It’s a big challenge for me and I’m looking forward to getting in there and working with players from all corners of the Club, not just First Team but the Under 19’s Academy and the Scholars.
“I have a good grasp of where we are and where we need to be as we enter our fourth season in Super League. I want to improve them as rugby players and athletes. There’ll be certain areas and techniques that I’ll tweak but everything is geared towards being fitter, faster and stronger.”