Rugby League


18 Apr 2024

Championship Chats: Tom Gilmore

Championship Chats: Tom Gilmore

Catch up with Widnes-born Tom Gilmore, as he discusses his side's strong start to the 2024 Championship season, playing for his hometown club, and talks us through several moments in his playing career...

Widnes Vikings are four wins from four in the Betfred Championship and will look to continue their winning streak on Sunday when they travel to face Featherstone.

After their impressive start to the 2024 campaign, under new head coach Allan Coleman, we caught up with influential half-back Tom Gilmore – one of the key brains of the operation.

The Vikings find themselves second in the league table on points difference but are level on points with the current league leaders Wakefield Trinity. Allan Coleman’s men had also occupied top spot for the first two weeks, as they continue to challenge at the top.

Widnes, along with Wakefield and Sheffield remain unbeaten heading into Round 5, and although there is still a long way to go in the competition, Gilmore is more than pleased with his side’s performances in the opening rounds:

“We’ve had a really good start to the season. We’re a new team, we’re fresh and we have that energy and enthusiasm," Gilmore said, who is currently the second leading goal-kicker in the Championship this season:

“It’s nice to freshen up and it’s been really good so far. We’re all getting on really well and we’re a tight-knit group, so let’s see what happens.

“It’s nice to be winning but it’s Rugby League and it’ll soon spit you out, so we’re not getting too carried away.

“Hopefully we can go again this week – we’ve got Featherstone away which is going to be tough, so hopefully we go there, and we have a real dig and a chance of winning.”

Widnes’ fine start to this year’s Championship has been a terrific turnaround from their disappointing runs in both the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup and Betfred Challenge Cup earlier on in the year.

For the first time, the early rounds of these respective cup competitions were played prior to the league starting, and a narrow loss to Swinton in the 1895 Cup meant the Vikings were unable to progress out of the group stages and contest for a place in the quarter-finals.

Another tight defeat to Batley in Round 5 of the Challenge Cup also meant that Widnes came within an inch of the chance to play against Super League opposition in the Sixth Round – something the side had been relishing.

And although Gilmore acknowledges how gutting these defeats were for both the club and its fans, he insisted that no teams in the second tier should ever be underestimated:

“They were tight games and could have gone either way. I think in the Championship, especially when you’re in these early rounds and playing on boggy pitches, anything can happen.

“Anything can happen anywhere really in the Championship – anyone can beat anyone and with the way these pitches are, it always levels the game out a bit.

“This league is really competitive, but to be fair, it’s been like that for a couple of years now. There’s a lot of good players now playing in the Championship and sometimes there’s a lot of players that don’t make that next step up for whatever reason, and they want to stay in the Championship.

“I think it’s because the competition is so strong.”

Tom Gilmore is Widnes through and through, spending eight years at the club between 2012-2019. 

During this time, he has been through it all, including the highs of achieving his Super League debut in 2012 as a youngster, as well as contributing to some unforgettable wins over the years. But with this also came the lows of a devastating relegation in 2018, ending their seven-year stay in top flight.

He recalled his most memorable moment in a Widnes shirt during his first spell:

“My favourite moment was when we went to Catalans away in the 2017 Super 8s Qualifiers with a young team, and we had to beat them in the last game of the season to stay up.

“We beat them 10-12 and stayed up in Super League at Catalans away and we had the youngest team out ever. This was before Catalans went on to play the Million Pound Game the week after, but we'd already secured our safety.

"That’s my most memorable Widnes game.”

A series of unfortunate injuries, however, would see Gilmore feel the need for change, as he made the decision to leave his hometown club and take up an opportunity in West Yorkshire.

Gilmore had a very brief stint at Halifax in 2020, before signing for Batley Bulldogs where he experienced an incredible two seasons.

Orchestrator Gilmore became an integral part of a side that went on to help Batley reach a Play-Off semi-final in 2021, before they would make it one step further the following year and find themselves competing in the Million Pound Game against Leigh – one match within Super League.

“I was at Widnes a long time before I left and I just needed a change, really,” Gilmore admitted, as he reflected on this time period.

“I was picking up a lot of injuries when I was younger, so I went over to Yorkshire for a few years to fall back in love with the game.

“Being at Batley helped me to do this again and gave me a platform to show everyone what I was about.

“Everyone already knew what I was about, but I just wasn’t performing consistently enough, so it was nice to get two great seasons there.

“It’s a brilliant little club and they’re capable of doing bigger things – what a place.”

Fast forward to 2023 and Widnes announced that fan favourite “Gilly” would be making his return - this time bringing his love back to his hometown club - and he hasn’t looked back:

“It’s been going well ever since.

“I was just picking up injury after injury and I'd had so many operations - but that’s just the sport we play. Hopefully they are all behind me now and I can have a few years where I can have a nice little run of games and hopefully, I can keep that going.

“I’m more consistent now and I know what I am. I already knew how to guide a team around and knew what to do, but I’m definitely a better player now than when I first left.

“It’s all about experience, isn’t it?”

Being his boyhood club, just like plenty of other local players on the team, Gilmore is full of pride and hopes that one day Widnes will be able to see success once more:

“Growing up, everyone talks about Widnes being great and how they were great, and it would be nice to get back to that one day.

“Last time we were in Super League we weren’t a million miles off, but certain reasons meant it didn’t work out.

“In Widnes there’s plenty of talent – you look at Super League and it’s littered with Widnes academy players – hopefully the success can come back.”

Looking at what 2024 could have in store, Gilmore hopes to play his best rugby, whilst setting his sights on a Play-Off place come the end of the regular season - and urges the Widnes fans to help support his side in achieving this:

“We’re taking it week to week and as long as we’re in the Play-Offs come the end of the season, then I’ll be happy.

“Widnes haven’t been in the Play-Offs since they got relegated out of Super League. So that is really the next step - we need to get in the Play-Offs and get our fanbase back on side and start building slowly.

“We’ve spoken about the Play-Offs. We don’t want to set our sights too high, but we’ll reassess every few weeks.

“We need to be in the Play-Offs, that’s the be all and end all. There’s a lot of good teams – you look at it and there’s so many teams who could fit into those six spots.

“We’re in a good position at the moment but the Championship can soon knock you down, so we’ll take it week by week and keep knocking the wins off.”

With back-to-back West Yorkshire trips on the horizon, as Widnes take on Championship heavyweights Featherstone and Bradford in their next two rounds, Gilmore is fully aware that this could be the Vikings’ toughest test yet:

“I think because we beat Bradford away in the Challenge Cup about two months ago, they’ll want revenge. They’ve hit a good run of form now, so it could be a completely different game.

“We’ll concentrate on Fev and see how we come out, and then we will look onto Bradford.”

For the Widnes number 7, Gilmore’s personal aims are simple:

“My goal is just to stay fit, and if Widnes are playing well and winning, I think I’ll be doing alright and then that will do for me.

“I usually play my best rugby where we’re winning.”

Also contracted until the end of the 2024 season, the 30-year-old admitted that he would love to stay with Widnes Vikings:

“Hopefully. I’m in my contract year now, so it's that time of the year where clubs are speaking to you. We’ll see what’s what and hopefully we can sort something.”

Tickets are still available for Featherstone v Widnes’ Round 5 clash. Fans can purchase tickets from Featherstone’s official club website or Widnes' official club shop.

The full fixture list for the Betfred Championship can be found here.

A full Betfred Championship Round 5 Preview can be found here.