Tom Tsang says the security provided by a six-year elite Academy licence is welcome as London Broncos continue working to tap into the wealth of potential Rugby League talent in the capital.
The capital club and Championship rivals Newcastle are both situated in what the governing body term ‘emerging affinity areas’.
And the Broncos’ Academy head coach Tsang, who will combine his role with that of assistant to head coach Danny Ward following Jamie Langley’s departure, says he’s looking forward to building on the work already done.
London’s ambition is to regain the Super League berth lost in 2019, then retain it, with a team underpinned by homegrown players.
“The Academy is a really big part of our club,” said the former Coventry Bears coach, who joined the Broncos in 2019.
“We have a good record of producing players and progressing them from Under 16s through the Under 19s to the first team, and going forward, we want to improve it even more.
“It’s so important, both for the sustainability of the club and growing Rugby League in London, that we have a strong Academy.
“We were very keen to retain an elite licence, and credit should go to our head of youth Rob Powell, who did a great job in pulling together our application.
“He’s put in 20 years of service, and is really passionate about player development and driving our system forward.
“Having a six-year licence provides some certainty and security for investing in and developing processes and structures, and I think it’s particularly important given the disruption to the Academy and community game caused by Covid.
“That’s especially true in London, because there aren’t the numbers playing that there are in the north, and we’ll be working hard to re-establish the community game, then grow it.”
WHITEHAVEN coach Gary Charlton wants the frustration of missing out on victory at Sheffield to be the driving force behind the bid to pick up a third win of the campaign at home to Batley on Sunday.
The Cumbrians had to make do with a 25-25 draw after leading by 13 points going into the final quarter of an hour at the Keepmoat Stadium, where home halfback Anthony Thackeray landed an equalising field-goal after the hooter.
Charlton felt a number of decisions went against his side, and told League Express that he has aired his grievances with the RFL.
“Don’t get me wrong, we have to take some of the responsibility as a team, and I know refereeing is one of the hardest jobs around,” he said.
“But there was one instance in particular, a one-on-one ball steal which led to a penalty which then led to a Sheffield score, which was totally frustrating and made a major difference. What I am saying is that decisions like those have to be right.
“We know we have a battle to stay in this division, and we are scrapping for every point we can get, and come the end of the season, a single point could make a massive difference.”
With a free weekend, Charlton gave his squad a night off training before bringing them in for a tough work-out last Thursday.
“They defended manfully down at Sheffield, and I think a few days’ rest rejuvenated them, because the next session was a good one,” added Charlton.
Whitehaven, meanwhile, have urged chairman Tom Todd to reconsider his decision to resign.
The club said in a statement: “There is an ongoing situation involving our board and members of staff. We would appreciate some time to rectify this and bring unity to the club.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS coach James Ford is working hard on getting his side’s Championship challenge back on track as he prepares for a run of five key fixtures.
The ambitious Knights were left with a four wins, four defeats record after losing 37-18 to Bradford in the Bulls’ first match back at Odsal since 2019.
Having hosted Swinton in the semi-finals of the 1895 Cup, attention returns to the league on Sunday, when York head to Halifax.
Seven days after that (June 20), they host Batley, before a trip to Whitehaven is followed by clashes with Newcastle (home) and London Broncos (away).
The weekend of July 17/18 brings a break from Championship action for the Challenge Cup and 1895 Cup finals at Wembley.
Ford says the Knights contributed to their own downfall against Bradford, for whom it was a sixth successive win.
“We lost the game because we had some individuals out there who were miles below the standards that we expect,” he said.
“At key moments, we let the pressure off Bradford with yardage penalties, kicking the ball dead, poorly-selected offloads, missing tackles, missing detail in defence and forward passes.
“You can’t expect to beat a play-off contender that Bradford are, for sure, with all those bits in your game.
“Having said that, I think the Matty Marsh no-try and the Kieran Dixon break, where he spilled it, were really big momentum swingers.
“I think Bradford scored the next set after one of them, so it’s an 18-point swing.
“But, that sometimes happens and what we can control is the little bits of detail that we’re not quite getting right.
“These kind of things are sent to test us and it’s about how we bounce back. We’ve got some characters in there, some leaders in there.
“I was really hurt by the defeat. I know the supporters will be and the players are. We will come back.”
WIDNES VIKINGS coach Simon Finnigan wants more of the same from his middles as the Vikings plot a hat-trick of league wins for the first time in more than two years.
It hasn’t happened since March 2019, when four scalps in succession were taken as Featherstone, Bradford, Barrow and Rochdale were beaten in Championship clashes.
Widnes host London Broncos on Sunday aiming to build on victories at home to Whitehaven (44-6) and away to Oldham (40-18).
They came in the wake of a 70-0 drubbing by Toulouse in a game switched from France to Swinton’s Heywood Road, and a 35-14 home loss against York.
While he has identified areas still to work on, Finnigan, whose side faced Featherstone in the 1895 Cup semi-finals on Sunday, is happy with the progress being made.
“There are a few issues in defence to fix up,” he explained. “The tries we conceded against Oldham were disappointing, and there were times we lacked a bit of line speed.
“But on the plus side, we scored some good tries, and that came off some really good work by our middles in what were really tough conditions.
“It was the hottest it’s been in a while, but they showed great energy and kept going, with our ability to rotate being very useful.”
Finnigan, whose side have a three wins, one draw, four defeats league record so far, continued: “I thought the team as a whole did a good job.
“We had a lot of ball early on without scoring, but they stuck to the overall plan and made a couple of adjustments and we came up with some points.
“Having people back after injuries is obviously helping, and it’s giving us the ability to manage their minutes.
“Against Oldham, with Lewis Else on the bench, we were able to take (stand-off) Danny Craven off mainly as a precaution after he took a knock.
“And likewise, we were able to give (loose-forward) Matty Smith a bit of a rest late on, just to protect him.”
DEWSBURY RAMS are looking to bolster their squad ahead of a couple of testing fixtures says coach Lee Greenwood.
The Rams, beaten 30-10 at London Broncos in their last outing, face the division’s two unbeaten teams, Toulouse and Featherstone, in their next two games.
The French side visit on Sunday for the first game at the Tetley’s Stadium since fans were allowed back into grounds, with Rovers arriving seven days later on June 20.
Greenwood, whose side have won three out of seven in the league, has had to deal with a string of injury problems.
And both prop Frazer Morris and halfback Jamie Greenwood – the younger brother of coach Lee – have left the club due to work and family commitments.
“We are struggling a bit in a few positions and so we need to get a few bodies in,” said the team chief.
Greenwood, who has overseen wins over Whitehaven, Widnes and Swinton this season, wants lessons to be learned from the loss to London.
“We are disappointed with the result, but I think the game was a lot tighter than the scoreline suggests,” he said.
“We conceded four tries on the last tackle where they just ran it in. That was down to tiredness or not concentrating.
“We can’t be weak mentally in those situations where we think the job is done on the last tackle. It’s not done, we have to focus better.
“We also didn’t take some of the key chances that were presented to us. If we take those obviously the score then is a lot closer.
“The effort was there and the players really put a massive shift in. But we just need to be a bit tougher mentally when it comes to those difficult moments.
“There was a big ten minutes either side of half-time. We conceded right on the hooter and then missed a good chance at the start of the second half.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER have extended a ground-breaking rugby and education partnership which helped produce their latest debutant.
The Rugby Excellence programme is a collaboration between Thunder and rugby union club Newcastle Falcons – both part of Newcastle Rugby Ltd – and Tyne Metropolitan College.
It allows members of the Thunder Academy, which recently retained its elite status, to develop their playing skills while helping them gain a professional sports qualification.
Isaac Nokes made his Thunder debut in last month’s 24-16 win over Sheffield at Kingston Park and played alongside Alex Donaghy.
Both worked their way through the two-year programme, playing for England Under 18s in the process.
The partnership, which leads to a NCFE level three extended diploma in sport (performance and excellence), started in 2016, and now Newcastle Rugby and the college have agreed to extend it until 2024.
There are plans to start a girls rugby academy across both codes.
College principal Mo Dixon said: “Our partnership with Newcastle Rugby has gone from strength to strength.
“The programme we deliver together is the best there is and it really does have the potential to help young players to achieve their dreams, on and off the pitch.
“They gain first-class coaching and an important academic qualification.
“It’s great to know that Isaac has made his first-team debut and that both he and Alex played for England.
“While not everyone will reach those heights, this course gives them the training and instruction to find their place in the world of sport.”
Newcastle, meanwhile, have signed Hull KR forward Owen Harrison on a season-long loan deal and taken Wigan centre Sam Halsall for an initial two weeks.
OLDHAM hooker Matty Wilkinson is set to step up his return from a broken leg while long-serving prop Phil Joy is eyeing a first competitive outing of the year against Sheffield at Bower Fold on Saturday following a hamstring issue.
Former Salford man Wilkinson, who turns 25 later this month, needed surgery after picking up his injury during pre-season.
That was a major blow for both the player and coach Matt Diskin as he tries to establish the Roughyeds in the second tier after coming up from League 1 alongside Whitehaven in 2019.
Wilkinson, signed in 2017, played 20 times, scoring ten tries, during the promotion campaign, when Oldham beat Newcastle in the play-off final, and made six appearances before the pandemic finished last season early.
The ex-Leigh Miners player, who when fit, is often rotated with skipper Gareth Owen during games, has now undergone a procedure to take out surgical pins, which is reported to have gone well.
The removal of stitches, due next week, will provide the green light to step up his rehabilitation programme.
“It’s a long job, obviously, but everything is going well and according to plan,” reported club chairman Chris Hamilton.
Diskin, whose side have won two out of eight league games, has had to deal with a string of injuries this year.
The latest is to second row Danny Bridge, who limped out of the 40-18 home defeat by Widnes due to a damaged calf.
Bridge, prop Jack Spencer (back) and halfback James Barran (groin) will all be assessed during the build-up to the Sheffield game.
Former Wigan player Barran last featured during the Challenge Cup second-round defeat at Swinton in March.
On-loan St Helens fullback Tom Nisbet has returned to the Super League club.
He played less than half a game for Oldham after being sent off for a high tackle during the 34-6 defeat at York, for which he was handed a two-match ban.
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE coach Sylvain Houles says visiting Catalans in pre-season has sharpened his desire to lead the club to Super League.
Olympique lost 40-28 to the Dragons in Perpignan, but have won all five Championship matches since and were awarded a walkover victory versus London Broncos, who decided against travelling to France in April.
“Playing a Super League side was really exciting for us, and one day we want to go back to Perpignan to play a competitive match,” former Wakefield player Houles told League Express.
“That’s our vision, to have a French derby in Super League, and we think it would be great for the competition.”
Toulouse, who have yet to play a match in France this year because of the impact Covid quarantine regulations would have on players from part-time clubs, visit Dewsbury on Sunday.
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS are set to bring in experienced Salford prop Darcy Lussick on loan.
The 32-year-old Australian, who played in the NRL for Manly and Parramatta then had a three-year stint at Toronto, is expected to sign for an initial two-week spell.
Meanwhile, coach James Webster feels his side’s hard-fought win at Halifax, achieved in the absence of a number of regulars, bodes well.
It was a seventh win in seven league games for Rovers, who host promotion rivals Bradford on Sunday having taken on Widnes in the semi-finals of the 1895 Cup.
Batley, Swinton, Whitehaven, York, Oldham and Sheffield were seen off before the 16-8 victory over the Panthers.
“I am really happy, on a couple of counts,” said Webster.
“Halifax were at full strength, they left some great players out and they have been one of the form sides in the competition.
“It is a hard place to come as well. We scratched around to get a side together and I am really happy we came to a tough place against a good opponent with a depleted side and got a win.
“We have defended really well in the last six weeks, I thought our attention to detail in defence was really good.
“To only concede one try and when it was with a player in the sin bin (forward John Davies), was a pleasing result for us.
“Halifax tested us, they are big and strong and when they were able to offload the ball they were able to cause us some problems.”
BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear believes bringing in loan signings has helped keep his squad fresh.
Huddersfield duo, fullback Ash Golding and prop Olly Wilson, a Bulls Academy product, Hull back Mitieli Vulikijapani and Warrington forward Ellis Robson have all been recruited recently.
All four featured as Bradford marked their return to Odsal by beating York to make it six successive wins ahead of the visit of Newcastle.
“You don’t want a team where everybody knows what it is going to be week in, week out,” said Kear, whose side visit unbeaten Featherstone on Sunday.
“You want a bit of competition – and you’ve also got to look at the fixtures that are coming up, and we’ve got a pretty tough schedule.
“That’s the reason why we’ve bolstered our squad.”
HALIFAX PANTHERS say the return of limited numbers of spectators to The Shay for the first time in 14 months was successful – despite a verbal clash between the club chairman and fans.
A video posted on social media showed Laurence Turner confronting a group over Covid regulations during the 16-8 defeat by Featherstone, which was watched by a crowd of 882.
A Panthers spokesperson said: “The club is pleased to report a successful return of our valued fans to The Shay.
“With passions running high and excitement at understandably elevated levels in the sunshine, the club is aware of a minor disagreement in the stands.
“The central challenge was posed by the threat of future capacity being reduced if our landlords were unhappy with how the fans complied with Covid regulations.
“As part of the club’s safety regulations, social-distancing rules and a no-alcohol policy were in place.
“The vast majority of fans observed the temporary safety rules impeccably. The club is aware that directors approached a small section of fans to ask them to respect the regulations.
“One fan was ejected for concealing a glass bottle containing alcohol and after a few minutes, all were able to focus back on the game.”
Having hosted Sheffield, Halifax face York at The Shay on Sunday.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES coach Mark Aston has told his players they must be on the ball mentally as well as physically every match.
The Eagles have had a mixed season, and went into their game at Halifax on the back of a 25-25 draw at home to Whitehaven.
It took a last-gasp field-goal by halfback Anthony Thackeray to thwart the Cumbrians, and Aston said his side were “sluggish and shabby” in some areas.
“We went hard enough at training and did a lot of contact because we weren’t happy with that against Featherstone (Rovers won the previous game 50-18).
“We were soft, so we had a chat about that and did some work. I thought we were getting back towards where we want to be in regard to training.
“We worked hard, but when you lack a bit of confidence, you need something or someone to galvanise you. Maybe getting that point right at the end will do that for us.”
Aston, whose side visit Oldham on Saturday, added: “We’ll analyse ourselves to see what we can do better and how we’ll do it. We have a lot of work to do, including on our mental approach.
“We have to bring our A game every week as there are plenty of teams in this competition that can beat you. If you don’t perform, you’ll come away second-best.”
Sheffield have switched their home game against Toulouse on Sunday, June 27 to Wakefield’s Mobile Rocket Stadium because Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium, where they are playing this year, is unavailable due to pitch maintenance work.
BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard is working hard to keep his players grounded as he plots a sixth win in eight league games away to Whitehaven on Sunday.
The Bulldogs saw off Swinton last time out, having previously beaten Oldham, Widnes, Newcastle and Sheffield.
The bright start has got supporters talking about a repeat of the 2016 season, when Batley finished third in the Championship to make the old Qualifiers.
However popular former Bulldogs player Lingard has told his charges not to look at the league table.
“We are where we hoped we would be, where I thought we would be is a different matter,” he said.
“It is good that we are where we are, but there is a long way to go yet.
“The league table suggests the Whitehaven game is a victory for us, but I’ve been around long enough to know it’s never easy going there.
“My message to the players is to not look at the table, take each game as it comes and work hard every single week.”
SWINTON LIONS players Martyn Ridyard and Luke Waterworth and assistant coach Dougie Owen have been delivering school-holiday training sessions to the Manchester Lions junior teams recently set up by the club’s foundation.
There are sides at Under Ten, Twelve and 14 level, with the aim of increase awareness of Rugby League and developing talent across Greater Manchester.
Swinton director of development Damian Ridpath explained: “After the successful formation of our women’s and girls’ teams the Swinton Lionesses, this is the next part of our development strategy.
“This initiative is also integral to Swinton Lions’ continued contribution to the Rugby League World Cup Legacy Plan for the wider sport.
“As a club, we are committed to growing the impact of the Lions and attracting new participants to this fantastic sport.”
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