2021 Championship Preview: London Broncos

Broncos hope patience pays off

London Broncos will once again go into a Championship season as a full-time club.

The Broncos were relegated from Super League at the end of 2019 after a solitary season back in the top flight. And there had been whispers during the autumn that the club would be heading in a part-time direction.

A massive loss of central funding in the previous 12 months, down from £1.8m to just £300,000 in 2020 meant there was a difficult decision to make but long-time owner David Hughes opted to keep the Broncos full-time in 2021.

Being full-time means London can attract a different category of player to the part-time clubs in the division. You only have to look at the names coming into the club: Ed Chamberlain, Chris Hankinson, Romain Navarrete and Jarrod Sammut have all played a good amount of Super League over the past few years and, in some cases, longer.

“We’ve got some decent blokes in,” Danny Ward told League Express.

“Firstly, they’re good blokes and they’ve fitted in to what we’re about at the Broncos which makes it easier. They’ve bought straight in. They’re getting on well with the group and doing everything they’re asked of. We’re looking forward to seeing them play now.”

They’ve also managed to attract Lebanese winger Abbas Miski over from Manly Sea Eagles in the NRL.

Miski caught the eye in the 2017 World Cup for his ability on the wing for Lebanon but also his striking resemblance to Australia’s Josh Mansour.

“He got to London when it was about minus two so it took the wind out of him in the first few days; a bit of a culture shock.

“But he’s been fantastic in training. He’s in decent shape physically. We’ve got some good raps off people we know in Australia. He’s forming a decent partnership with Chris Hankinson.”

What has also caught the eye is the Broncos’ “outs” list. Quite a few players have been snapped up by Super League clubs, you could say it’s a ringing endorsement for what the Broncos are doing in the capital. Olly Ashall-Bott, who initially joined Ottawa Aces, Eddie Battye, who spent much of 2020 playing with Wakefield Trinity, Rob Butler and Dan Norman are all heading to the top division.

As for where the Broncos themselves are heading this year, reports suggest they are set to begin a new chapter at AFC Wimbledon, the club’s 10th home since they were first formed in 1980.

The club haven’t officially confirmed their new home for 2021, but they have signed a three-year deal to train at Rosslyn Park and Ward has been impressed with the facilities there.

“The facilities have been really good, it’s helped us with the programme that we’ve put together,” Ward continued.

“It’s got a 3G pitch which has enabled us to not miss a day’s training throughout the snow storms of the last few weeks. The outdoor gym area has enabled us to get outside with the Covid protocols.

“We’ve not had the full use of the facilities yet because a lot of it is locked down. The boys get changed outside and then they’re in and out of the ground quickly compared to normal days when you’re using the changing rooms and the showers.”

With all players in all clubs excited to get back into contact training after over a year in relative isolation, Ward has found it’s as much a coaches job to make sure they don’t get carried away to begin with as it is to make sure they’re ready for a brutal Championship season.

“It’s almost like you’re holding them back a little bit so they’re not going too daft too early.

“That’s been one of the hardest things, to rein them in. We’re patient and taking our time, it’s a long season.

“We’ve put trust in the performance team, the medical team that they know what’s best, they put the best programme together for them to peak at the right time of year.”

Ward and his coaching staff are also being patient when it comes to friendlies. Some teams are taking full advantage of being able to play two friendlies before the Challenge Cup games but Ward knows it’s a long season and wants his squad firing on all cylinders at the right time so they won’t be playing any official friendlies before they play Keighley Cougars towards the end of March.

“We’ll replicate what we can in training. We’ve got 28 (players) currently and that means we play a game against each other. We can do things like that in training and do some contact in that sense.

“Nobody is going to be ready round one, the competition isn’t won in round one. It’s a different approach this year, you’ve got to peak at the right time and be on the money come October.

“I don’t know the right way or the wrong way. Ask me in a month’s time and I might say we should have had a couple of friendlies but we can only do what we think is best.”

London Broncos 2021 squad numbers: 1 James Meadows, 2 Tuoyo Egodo, 3 Chris Hankinson, 4 Will Lovell, 5 Ed Chamberlain, 6 Cory Aston, 7 Jarrod Sammut, 8 Olsi Krasniqi, 9 Matty Fozard, 10 Greg Richards, 11 Sadiq Adebiyi, 12 Rhys Curran, 13 Josh Walters, 14 Sam Davis, 15 Romain Navarrete, 16 Dan Hindmarsh, 17 Abbas Miski, 18 Jordan Williams, 19 Jacob Ogden, 20 Gideon Boafo, 21 Rian Horsman, 22 Oliver Leyland, 23 Josh Hodson, 24 Will Blakemore, 25 Jacob Jones, 26 Rob Oakley, 27 Jonah Varela, 28 Titus Gwaze

Ins: Ed Chamberlain (Salford Red Devils – loan), Titus Gwaze (Wakefield Trinity), Chris Hankinson (Wigan Warriors – loan), Abbas Miski (Manly Sea Eagles), Romain Navarrete (Wigan Warriors), Jarrod Sammut (Leigh Centurions)

Outs: Guy Armitage (Ottawa Aces), Olly Ashall-Bott (Huddersfield Giants), Eddie Battye (Wakefield Trinity), Rob Butler (Warrington Wolves), Kieran Dixon (York City Knights), Dan Norman (St Helens), Eloi Pelissier (Toulouse Olympique), Morgan Smith (York City Knights)

Head coach: Danny Ward

The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.