London Broncos owner David Hughes says their junior development systems are ‘massively underestimated’ by the rest of the game, and asserts that youth will be a core component of the club’s long-term plans in the south.
Seven homegrown players featured in the Broncos 17 that secured promotion via the Million Pound Game last season, with other London-produced players such as Mike McMeeken, Tony Clubb and Lewis Bienek signing for different Super League clubs in recent years.
London’s production line does not perhaps get the credit it deserves, Hughes told League Express. “I think that what we do down here is massively underestimated by people in the north.”
“You forget that around two years ago, there were around five or six Castleford players who at one time or another had come through the London system. Mike McMeeken was homegrown, Matt Cook spent time here, even Luke Gale came here as a young man to learn his trade.
“We’d like to think we’ve helped establish a great rugby league structure in the capital, and perhaps going all over the city has made that better. We pioneered a lot of those up-and-coming clubs you now see in the south.”
Hughes also states that significant investment in the next generation, as opposed to recruiting numerous high-earning Australia players, is London’s long-term approach to ensure a bright future for the game in the capital.
“We’ve focussed a lot of money in the Academy,” Hughes said, “and I think that’s really the future for the game down here.
“You can’t bring a dozen 30-year-old players with families down from the north, because you’ve got house them and pay for extras, and we’re not geared to do that.
“What we are geared towards, however, is bringing the best kids into our junior setup. Our under-19s beat all the top teams this year. Name a big rugby league Academy and our juniors have beaten them.
“The hardest task for us down here is the size of the competition. There are a lot of big rugby union clubs, let alone everyone else, so if you want to be successful you have to be winning.
“We are almost considered the poor relation at times; out of the way of everyone else, and that’s the challenge. It has always surprised me that League hasn’t taken off in London, but we’ve started to do things differently and focussing on our junior uptake.
“They are the future of the sport.”