Clarke excited to tackle familiar faces
Widnes Vikings captain Jon Clarke will be happy to upset his neighbours, as well as several close friends, when he goes up against old club Warrington Wolves for the first time in the Magic Weekend tomorrow.
The 33-year-old hooker, signed from the Wolves ahead of the Vikings’ return to the top flight this year, is looking forward to lining up against his old team-mates, especially after missing the 46-12 Stobart Super League derby defeat at Easter through injury.
“I spent 10 years with Warrington so my first match against my old mates will be unusual,” he said. “I still live in Warrington and my neighbours are Ben Westwood and Garreth Carvell so it will be weird to play against them.
“But, as soon as that whistle is blown, they are not my mates for 80 minutes.”
Prop forward Carvell, who played alongside Clarke in the Warrington front row when they won the Carnegie Challenge Cup at Wembley in 2010, has already started to make life difficult for his neighbour.
“Jon lives just a few doors down the road from me and he’s going to hope he isn’t a light sleeper,” Carvell said.
“We’ve already begun winding each other up and, though it’s good-natured for now, we both know it’s going to be serious come Saturday afternoon.”
It will be Widnes’ first involvement in the Magic Weekend, which was introduced in 2007 and staged in Cardiff and Edinburgh before moving to the Etihad Stadium this year.
The action begins at 1pm with the clash of West Yorkshire rivals Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats while the Hull derby will bring down the curtain on day one at 7pm.
Castleford will give a debut to winger Rhys Williams while half-backs Danny Orr and Rangi Chase will both return as the Tigers look to bounce back from their 70-12 humiliation at Hull KR.
Hull FC captain Andy Lynch played in derbies for previous clubs Castleford and Bradford Bulls, but admits his experience of the Good Friday clash with arch rivals Rovers was a revelation.
“Hull derbies are a great spectacle,” he said. “Although the playing side of the game is no different to the Bradford v Leeds fixtures, the passion of the fans is certainly more intense in the Hull derby.
“The games always have a great atmosphere and they attract the interest of all fans, not just those of Hull FC or Hull KR.
“Even when I played for Bradford, the Hull derby always had a lot of excitement surrounding it and it was one of those games you never wanted to miss seeing.”