As the Championship season is peaking its head over the horizon, many of the second tier clubs are testing themselves in preseason friendlies which whet the appetite for their respective fan bases. One of those clubs delving into the preseason games are London Broncos. The recently relegated Broncos are adapting to life as a Championship club with a rather new squad. Numerous departures out of the London club is coupled with numerous arrivals in, which leaves the fans optimistic that life in the Championship will not be all doom and gloom.
Only winning one match last season in the Super League was a hammer-blow to the Broncos as a whole, they were slated in the media which doesn’t help anybody associated with the club. The key to a good team is that the squad stays together over time, striking bonds and creating platforms to work with out on the rugby field. With 16 new signings for the 2015 season, team cohesion will be vital to coach Joey Grima’s plans during the preseason games. A lot of the new signings bring experience to the table, which is very useful considering London had one of the youngest squads in Super League last year. Richard Mathers and Wes Naiqama, from Wakefield Wildcats and Penrith Panthers respectively, are the epitome of rugby league experience with 23 years of top level rugby between them. Championship experience comes in the form of Luke Adamson and Matt Garside from Halifax RLFC and Sheffield Eagles respectively. Adamson had been a Fax player for two seasons after spending seven years at Salford. Garside had been an Eagles player for the same amount of time as Adamson at Fax, he previously played for York City Knights and Gateshead Thunder. With twelve more players also being acquired to play at The Hive this season, it seems the attraction of playing in the capital, along with being able to have a shot at Super League clubs come August time, is there for all to see. In a change to the coaching staff, Joey Grima has a new assistant coach for 2015. Andrew Henderson has called time on his successful career as a player to become second in command at the Broncos.
At the time of writing, the Broncos had played two preseason games. A defeat to a strong Catalans Dragons side was what people expected, a 32-16 defeat was far from a disaster for Grima’s men though. A more youthful squad played in the second game, as neighbours London Skolars hosted the Championship outfit. A 36-14 win for the Broncos will have been music to the ears of their fans, despite the opponents being Championship 1 opposition. Winger Alex Walker bagged a hat-trick on the artificial pitch at New River. From the two preseason games, 14 out of the 16 new signings had made their debut in Broncos colours, the two that missed out were Glenn Riley and William Barthau. The Broncos play their final preseason match on February 1st when they travel to West Yorkshire to face fellow second tier team Dewsbury Rams. Assuming Grima and Rams coach Glenn Morrison play their full-strength, excluding injuries, sides, it will be a good indication as to where the Broncos are in comparison to a team who are also aspiring to finish in the top four before the league splits.
French half-back William Barthau will not be taking part in the first few months of the season due to a knee injury he sustained on international duty with France in the European Championships. Barthau and fellow new signing Liam Foran were a very steady bet to start in the halves against Doncaster for the first game of the season, but the aforementioned injury to Barthau has given Joe Keyes a chance to shine. Keyes has come through the academy system at the Broncos and he showed what he’s made of when he played an integral part in the capital club’s only win in Super League last season. A hat-trick against Leeds Rhinos put his name into the spotlight, while a good couple of performances against the Australian Schoolboys during the offseason has only improved rugby pundits thoughts about the talented half-back. The u19’s team at the Broncos has produced six players that have been announced as first team squad members for 2015. The youth system is thriving at London, despite the Union presence in the city. The capital is a hotbed of talent, and the Broncos are now reaping the rewards for tapping into it.
In my Championship Preview and Predictions article, I said that London Broncos will finish in 3rd place before the ‘Super 8’s’ split. The obvious reasons are that they’re a full-time outfit, if a team who trains in a full-time environment doesn’t finish in the top 4 then it’s a waste of money. Everybody can agree with that. If the Broncos underestimate anyone, they’ll get a rude awakening but with Grima and Henderson in control of things at The Hive, I don’t think they’ll be any complacency. The talent is most certainly there at London, from the youth to the majorly experienced. Will London get promoted? No, I don’t think anybody will get promoted from the Championship this season. But I do remind people that I’m not always right, so you can still be hopeful and optimistic, as everybody usually is in preseason!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my ramblings about London Broncos, they’re a team I’m looking forward to see play this season. Best of luck to everybody down at the Broncos for the season ahead, a successful team in the capital will be brilliant for the game and I hope there will be in the near future!