London Broncos

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robbobillinge
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Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 2:11 pm

London Broncos

Post by robbobillinge »

Gavin Willacey has an article in the online Guardian today about London Broncos.
josie andrews
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Re: London Broncos

Post by josie andrews »

robbobillinge wrote: Thu Feb 08, 2024 8:34 am Gavin Willacey has an article in the online Guardian today about London Broncos.
Where’s the link?
Anyone can support a team when it is winning, that takes no courage.
But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you,
that takes a lot of courage. #18thMan
josie andrews
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Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 10:17 pm
Location: Wigan
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Re: London Broncos

Post by josie andrews »

London Broncos are back in Super League but ‘doomed’ before it starts

Meet the team facing almost certain relegation with a caretaker coach and a winger back in the top flight after a decade away

This month London Broncos begin their fifth spell in rugby league’s top flight since they formed in 1980. Unless something extraordinary happens off the pitch, it will be the fourth time they only last a season, thanks to being ranked 24th by IMG in the new club grading system where only the top 12 will remain in Super League for 2025. It is a situation I believe unprecedented in British sporting history.

The national newspaper rugby league writer who questioned whether they will win a game will not be alone. Competition sponsors BetFred have London 3-1 to finish bottom. That’s 3-1 on, not against. But there are different types of wooden spoon. Given their inexperience and lack of spending this winter, it would not take the most pessimistic fan to envisage another campaign like 2014 when the Baby Broncs’ – 24 of the squad were aged 21 or under when it began – only win of the season came at the 25th attempt. One of those greenhorns was Iliess Macani, who soon after turning 20 was making his first team debut in Super League.

“Everyone assumes we’re going down anyway, that we’re doomed,” admits Macani, returning to the top flight 10 years on. “But we have to play to the best of our ability anyway, either for our own livelihoods or for the club to be able to stay in Super League.”

All involved will be hoping it’s more like their last excursion to the big time, in 2019, when the rank outsiders started well, then hit the wall before rallying in the second half of the season, and only going down by a point. London should not be judged on the first month when they face last season’s top three. Others who look weak on paper will not be relishing their trips to Plough Lane. Any wins may do nothing to aid the club retaining their status, but every competitive display will work wonders for morale.

“Our only aim is to compete on every single play, in every aspect of the game,” explained Macani, last season’s top try scorer. “If we do that, we will be a lot higher than people expect us to be. We can really turns some heads.”

Macani’s career should be winding down now. After a season at Bradford and another at Sheffield, he spent four at third tier London Skolars before returning to the Championship and the Broncos when a clutch of senior Skolars players followed their coach Jermaine Coleman across the capital. It did not go well, leading to long-term strength and conditioning coach Eccles stepping up as caretaker in June 2022. Eccles is still in charge, Macani is playing the rugby of his life, and they are back in Super League.


“Mike already had the respect of all the players,” explains Macani. “He’s super professional, always reliable and he says what he thinks. He’s kept that side to him. People really appreciate that. As coach now you know he really believes in what he delivers – and we do, too.”

Coach Eccles is, like his team, on an extended Super League trial. Regardless of IMG’s suspended sentence, the Broncos would be approaching this season as a project: London’s talent is going to displayed in the shop window from February until September. The club not being in Super League in 2025 does not mean these players or coaching staff won’t be. After the 2014 debacle, 10 were soon back in Super League, including future England stalwart Mike McMeeken. Nineteen of the Class of 2019 earned Super League deals elsewhere, ensuring their valiant efforts were not fruitless.

“[Yes], 100% we are in the shop window,” says Macani. “We just want to do the best that we can in the time that we have and make the most of it. We need to enjoy it too, because it can be very result-related. In 2014 it was a very difficult season but it was the start of great careers for a lot of players.

“[Captain] Will Lovell says that 2019 squad was a very different group to now, people who’d been around a lot longer with quite a bit of Super League experience. We’re a lot hungrier now.”

Having got promoted against all odds with a part-time squad, Eccles soon rejected the suggestion that, given the axe will fall on them anyway, they could tackle Super League on the same basis. Only a handful of players have retained their parallel careers – Lovell is still teaching, Dean Parata has a property business, prop Lewis Bienek works in IT, Jarred Bassett in construction and Dan Hoyes in recruitment – missing two training sessions most weeks.

“Will, Dean and Lewis are starting players so it does have an affect on the team, as we don’t get those patterns going,” acknowledges Macani. “The benefit is they are very experienced players so don’t need as many reps as some of the other boys and they can catch up quickly. Thursday nights are big-picture team stuff.” Macani has had to put his burgeoning fitness training career on hold while he plays full-time, instead mentoring young people in Barnet for Air Network charity.

Understandably given the IMG grading condemned them to the drop before kicking a ball, long-term owner David Hughes directed most of this season’s investment into areas that will gain points from IMG rather than score them on the field. Eccles hands chances to a group of young players who excelled in the Championship last year while playing for its minnows. Three of them – prop Sadiq Adebiyi (from Keighley), winger Gideon Boafe (Newcastle) and Meadows (Batley) – are Broncos academy products returning to the club having proved themselves outside their comfort zones.

Elite-level experience comes with maverick former France centre Hakim Maloudi – entertainingly hit and miss with Hull and Toronto; winger Lee Kershaw, who impressed at relegated Wakefield; and Australian prop Rhys Kennedy, 29, was a regular for Brisbane for three seasons before featuring for Hull KR in last year’s Challenge Cup Final.

Assuming Lovell makes his 50th Super League appearance in the opener at Saints, 12 years after his debut, he will be the only player in the squad to reach that milestone, with Kershaw the only other to have played more Super League games than Alex Walker’s 36. Last year’s Championship player of the year, Italy hooker Dean Parata, makes his elite debut at 32.

So Eccles will be hoping whoever fills their final non-European quota slot has the same impact as either former NRL stars Corey Norman or Dean Whare did last summer when their arrival transformed a mid-table team into one that went on an astonishing run, culminating in play-off triumph in Toulouse.

“People were in awe of Corey and Dean and wanted to impress them,” admits Macani. “The standard of training improved 10-fold! They were a pleasure to play alongside, shared their wisdom and knowledge, and really pushed the team. It was so much more comforting having players of that ilk in your team, knowing if you were in a tight squeeze, Corey could land the ball on their tryline or Dean would come up with a try-saving tackle.”

But neither Norman, Whare nor Fiji centre Henry Raiwalui will be there on 16 February to steer London around Langtree Park on opening night. That task will be down to three Super League debutants: newly-arrived Italy scrum-half Jack Campagnolo and academy products James Meadows or Oliver Leyland. And they have already lost the Championship’s young player of the year, hooker Bill Leyland (ACL) for the season, with both full-backs Josh Rourke and Alex Walker also injured.

It’s the toughest of tasks for arguably the first truly southern top flight team in history. The London club have never had more than half a dozen southerners play regularly in Super League campaigns. When the Broncos were challenging the league’s finest, it was often only one. Martin Offiah was sometimes the only Englishman. But having got promoted without a single northern player, Eccles could field a starting XI from south of Birmingham (14 played in last month’s friendly defeat at Huddersfield). Expect half of his first-choice side to be from the region, something never seen before. They have made long and winding journeys from Croydon and Colchester, East Herts and North Herts, from Medway, Milton Keynes, and Maidstone. That matters.

“We’ve got massive pride in being London’s team,” declares Macani. “A lot of us have been through hardship in the academy to earn this opportunity. From a young age we’d meet at Twickenham at 6am. If my parents couldn’t drop me I’d have to get two or three buses from Tottenham, then spend four hours on a coach going up north, play a game and come back home. I was just grateful for the opportunity. Mike [Eccles] was here then and has seen us progress and earn our stripes. I’m honoured to do it with people I’ve grown up with. We’ve worked hard. It’s a great story.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/no-he ... -it-starts
Anyone can support a team when it is winning, that takes no courage.
But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you,
that takes a lot of courage. #18thMan
josie andrews
Posts: 35281
Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 10:17 pm
Location: Wigan
Contact:

Re: London Broncos

Post by josie andrews »

robbobillinge wrote: Thu Feb 08, 2024 8:34 am Gavin Willacey has an article in the online Guardian today about London Broncos.
I’ve posted the article & the link for you 😊
Anyone can support a team when it is winning, that takes no courage.
But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you,
that takes a lot of courage. #18thMan
robbobillinge
Posts: 145
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 2:11 pm

Re: London Broncos

Post by robbobillinge »

Top apologies Josie. I must try harder! I must try harder!
josie andrews
Posts: 35281
Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 10:17 pm
Location: Wigan
Contact:

Re: London Broncos

Post by josie andrews »

robbobillinge wrote: Thu Feb 08, 2024 12:07 pm Top apologies Josie. I must try harder! I must try harder!
😂😂 don’t worry about you’re not the only one 😊 If you need any help just ask 😊
Anyone can support a team when it is winning, that takes no courage.
But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you,
that takes a lot of courage. #18thMan
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