Stadium: Ealing Trailfinders
Coach: Danny Ward
Last season’s finish: 5th in Qualifiers (promoted via Million Pound Game)
The London Broncos were undoubtedly the rugby league story of 2018.
Last February even the most optimistic of supporters would have struggled to look you in the eye and tell you that the season would pan out the way that it did. And yet here they are, preparing for their first season in the Betfred Super League since they were relegated in 2014.
The Ealing-based side navigated the most competitive Betfred Championship in years to earn themselves a place in the Qualifiers, and then defied all odds in the Million Pound Game to beat Toronto in what was one of the most compelling encounters of the season.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about all this, however, was the way in which London went about their business. With head coach Andrew Henderson leaving to join to Warrington Wolves, and a quiet off-season regarding recruitment, many expected the Broncos (1/4 – To Finish Bottom) to struggle to make to top four.
However, they recruited their next coach from within in the form of Academy boss Danny Ward, who put his trust in young local players to spectacular effect.
Looking to the new season and the main headline for the Broncos in the off-season has been the departure of maverick half-back Jarrod Sammutt.
The Maltan international was in sparkling form for the Broncos in last year and was hugely influential in their eventual promotion. Alongside his undoubted footballing prowess, Sammutt brought with him a wealth of experience and leadership skills that proved invaluable in that win over the Wolfpack.
Despite losing one talisman, London were boosted by the retention of hooker James Cunningham, who has signed a new deal after another hugely impressive year which saw him named in the England Knights squad before injury ended his season prematurely.
Ward has also brought in a number of new faces in the off-season, including former Newcastle Knights forward Luke Knight who moves to the capital with 25 NRL appearances under his belt. Yates is joined at the club by countryman Ryan Morgan who has signed for the Broncos on a year’s loan from St Helens.
At the outset, Super League survival seems like an impossible task for this young side, but that’s what people said about promotion last year…
Danny Ward seems to relish working the underdog tag, and whatever it is he does, it works. His players would have ran through walls for him and their teammates in 2018 and if he can instil this same spirit into his squad once more, and produce a few more players from London’s impressive academy system, then who knows.
Top-flight rugby league in the capital city could be here for the long term.
What do the experts think?
Paul Sculthorpe: “Super League new boys! A big test for Danny Ward’s team following promotion from the Betfred Championship. Some new signings with Super League experience, namely Ryan Morgan, Jordan Abdull and Greg Richards, along with young NRL forward Luke Yates – however I fear it could be a long season for the Broncos.
Star man? Alex Walker
Predicted finish? 12th
Jamie Peacock: “As much as I like seeing London in the Betfred Super League, with a good young coach, their quality and strength in depth of squad are the issues here.”
Predicted finish? 12th
The Betfred Super League 2019 kicks off in:
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