As the 2019 Super League season draws closer, we look at how the newly-promoted London Broncos will go in their quest to try to avoid a repeat of their 2014 form that left them relegated to The Championship for a four-year hiatus before returning to the big-time.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Jordan Abdull (Hull FC), Greg Richards (Leigh Centurions), Nathan Mason (Huddersfield Giants), Ryan Morgan (St Helens – loan), Matty Fozard (Sheffield Eagles), Morgan Smith (Warrington Wolves), Luke Yates (Newcastle Knights).
Ben Evans (Toulouse Olympique), Lewis Bienek (Hull FC), Jarrod Sammut (Wigan Warriors), Tom Spencer (Leigh Centurions).
Wakefield Trinity (H), Salford Red Devils (A), Hull KR (A), Castleford Tigers (H), Wigan Warriors (H)
WHAT TO EXPECT
London Broncos come into the 2019 renewal of the Super League as distinct underdogs after a shock defeat of Toronto Wolfpack in the 2018 Million Pound Game that granted them promotion. The Broncos, however, should feel optimistic with their 2019 fate and look to reap the rewards of a four-year re-building process in the Championship. Unfortunately, London remain typically undersized in the pack this season and will look to play with a good tempo to avoid getting locked into battles up-front with the predominantly (physically) bigger Super League sides. If they succeed in doing so, we could well see them achieving mid-table at the back end of the season given the depth of under-rated quality throughout the squad. However in reality, London are looking to avoid the bottom-spot and consequent relegation after their ‘shock’ promotion to Super League from the Million Pound Game.
Fortunately, they have the players to do so; after a cracking few seasons in the Championship culminated with a Million Pound Game match-winning performance, Alex Walker has already made a big difference to London’s fortunes. The home-grown talent predominantly plies his trade at full-back and at only 23 years-old is still one of the most exciting prospects at the club. Despite his towering-but-slight frame, Walker has a steely defensive game; characteristically infallible under the high ball as well as a consistent try-saver on the goal line.
On the other side of the ball, however, he both creates and scores tries for fun and is pivotal to both London’s structured and unstructured attacking games. Walker undoubtedly has a big season ahead in Super League and along with some exciting new signings he’ll make a huge difference to London’s fortunes in 2019.
While Broncos will inevitably suffer from the loss of Jarrod Sammut to Wigan, head-coach Danny Ward has made some astute signings with top-level experience that should help keep his side away from relegation this year. Alongside the key retention of Eloi Pellisier, Elliot Kear, and James Cunningham, London have added a plethora of talent in key positions – most notably with Luke Yates, Ryan Morgan, and Jordan Abdull.
With a mix of youth and experience, the three players will bring different qualities to the side; the latter – 22 year-old Abdull – has a wealth of Super League experience with Hull FC, while the Australian front-rower Yates has crucial NRL experience with Newcastle Knights. Morgan, however, trumps both signings with over 90 games in the NRL and was a mainstay at centre in St. Helens League Leaders’ winning side before leaving for the capital. Such experience in the world’s greatest rugby league competition is crucial for the Broncos’ quest to stay in Super League.
Broncos start their Super League season off with an ideal test at home against a Pauli Pauli-less Wakefield followed by equally ideal away days at Salford and Hull KR, before they host title-shots Castleford and Wigan at home. London have struck gold with their first five games which provide a perfect test for a newly promoted side.
Once past Wakefield, Salford and Hull KR, it’ll be very clear where London stand in terms of standards within the league, and if they win all three, then they’ll be able to test themselves against the best. Though, in truth, anything better than one win out of the first five will be a bonus for the determined London outfit and, considering that, their best chances look to be against Salford Red Devils and a somewhat unbalanced Hull KR outfit.
Top Tryscorer – Ryan Morgan
Top Pointscorer – Jordan Abdull
Club Player of the Year – Alex Walker
WHERE WILL LONDON BRONCOS FINISH?