Betts delighted with Hock deal
22nd January 2013
Widnes Vikings coach Denis Betts is confident he can get the career of controversial England international Gareth Hock back on track.
The 29-year-old back-row forward joined the Vikings on a season-long loan after Wigan Warriors revealed he had effectively walked out on them.
Hock spent 17 years with his home-town club after joining them at the age of 12 and had three years left on his contract, but has almost certainly played his last match for them after Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan revealed details of a major bust-up.
Betts, who played alongside a young Hock in the latter days of his Wigan career and briefly coached him at Central Park, says the Warriors’ loss is definitely the Vikings’ gain.
“I’ve worked with him,” he told Press Association Sport. “I know what his strengths are and I also know what his weaknesses are.
“I believe we’ve people here who can help get the best out of him. He’s a great player, a great trainer and he plays every week. They’re the kind of qualities we’re looking at.
“I’m made up that he chose to come here. Gareth has presence and an ability to turn a game.”
Lenagan, who stood by the player in 2009 when he was handed a two-year ban for using cocaine, claims Hock expected the Warriors to sack him when he refused to return to training in the winter.
He says Hock demanded a wage rise in mid-season and then insisted on being given permission to join Australian club Parramatta for 2013.
That move fell through because the clubs were unable to agree a transfer fee and Lenagan says Wigan turned down bigger offers from their Super League title rivals before accepting the move to the Vikings, who finished bottom of the table in 2012.
Wigan, who have retained Hock’s registration and inserted a clause preventing him from playing against them, say they will receive “a significant ongoing fee” from the Vikings, but Betts is delighted with the deal and hopes to keep the player beyond the end of the season.
“I’ve no opinion on what happened at Wigan,” Betts said. “All I know is that Gareth was available.
“It’s not cost us any money, it’s a loan deal. We’re not a club who can afford to pay substantial fees.
“We’d like to secure him for longer but at this time Wigan weren’t willing to go into that. Maybe they still see him as part of their future, I don’t know.
“There is a clause in there that gives us an opportunity to talk to Wigan at a point within the season.”
Hock, who has set his sights on playing for England in the World Cup later this year, insists there is still a chance of him fulfilling his Australian dream in 2014.
“I had my mind set on going but it fell through at the last minute,” he said. “There is still that option there for next year so I’ll have a look at it then, after the loan deal.”
Hock, who has made 169 Super League appearances for the Warriors, made a successful return from his drugs ban in 2011, going on to win a place in the 2012 Dream Team and reclaim his England spot for the autumn internationals.
He has linked up once more with former Wigan stand-off Kevin Brown, his brother-in-law with whom he is currently lodging, but pointed to the presence of Betts as the key factor in his decision to move to the Halton Stadium.
“As a junior working my way through the ranks at Wigan, Denis was a first-team regular at the time and somebody I genuinely looked up to,” he said.
“To later have him as my coach was fantastic and, when the chance of rejoining him at Widnes came around, I didn’t need asking twice.”
Hock is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury but hopes to make his Widnes debut in round two of Super League against St Helens at the Halton Stadium on February 10.