London Broncos Academy players Callum Bustin and Lewis Bienek will both step up to the first team in 2017, after signing one and two year deals respectively.
Austin, 19, has been with the Broncos since he was 16, playing in both London’s Scholarship and Academy teams, before he was rewarded with a first-team debut against Halifax in the 2016 Kingstone Press Championship season.
In the same season, whilst still training and playing with the Broncos’ Academy, the prop also represented Oxford in League One five times.
London’s head of youth Rob Powell hopes that Bustin’s success provides motivation for other young players in the south of England.
“I am really pleased for Callum as he has worked so hard for his opportunity,” said Powell.
“This is a great example of the pathway available for our players in London and the South East. Callum started playing primary Rugby League at what is now Richmond Rugby League club as a nine year old.
“Having represented Richmond in the London Junior League, he was selected to play in the London Rugby League Origin series and from there he has gone through the Scholarship and Under 19s in the Broncos Academy.
“I hope this provides inspiration for all the primary and junior Rugby League players across our region.”
Broncos coach Andrew Henderson said the opportunity to reward hard work and dedication in the London Broncos pathway is very important.
“Cal Bustin is another outstanding example of the success of the London Broncos pathway – he’s made his way up through our Scholarship and Academy teams, before making his first team debut against Halifax earlier this year.
“Cal performed well on debut and didn’t look out of place. My staff and I look forward to working with him and developing him further. He’s still very young, meaning the potential ahead of him is huge.
“He’s worked incredibly hard for this opportunity throughout his years with the club, but really stepped it up in his final year in the Academy. It’s really pleasing to be able to reward that dedication and determination. He really deserves this contract.
“Hopefully Cal will inspire other younger blokes hoping to make it as a professional rugby league player in the south of this country.”
Bienek, 18, having similarly made his way up through the Broncos Scholarship and Academy systems, also made his first-team debut in the 2016 season during London’s 76-16 thrashing of Batley Bulldogs in the Super 8s.
The accomplished young prop also played three games for Oxford in League One in 2016, and even has international honours under his belt – having been selected in both the England Youth and England Academy squads as recently as January of this year.
“It’s great to see Lewis sign a new contract that will keep him at the club beyond his time in the Academy,” commented Powell.
“As a middle age Academy player it was a massive reward for him to play in the first team at the end of last season.
“He has was one most destructive players in the Under 19 Academy last year and we look forward to seeing him training full time and continuing to develop.”
Henderson echoed Powell’s sentiments, and added that the number of academy players stepping up into London’s first team is something the club can pride itself on.
“We are excited to give another London product in Lewis the opportunity to step up into the first team full time. He has been impressive in the youth teams over recent years and earned his first team debut against Batley in the Super 8s in which he acquitted himself well.”
“Lewis adds genuine size, power and aggression to the pack and I look forward to seeing him adapt and develop as a full time player.
“He is still an Academy age player so we will certainly manage him and blood him appropriately as we do with all our young players.
“We will have 10 players in our first team squad next season that have come through the London youth performance structure at some stage – four of them stepping out of last year’s Academy.
“People are quick to knock London, but this is fantastic, bearing in mind under the new rules, you don’t have to have any home grown players in your first team any more. How many other clubs can show this, especially in the Championship?
“It further highlights the commitment we have to giving London players an opportunity, as well as developing players for London and for the greater good of the game.
“You not only have to look at the current talent at our club but all those players in Super League, Championship and League one that have been produced in London and came through our system. It also speaks volumes of the fantastic work being done underneath the first team lead by Rob Powell.
“The Academy programme was deemed weak in 2014, required improvement in 2015, was judged to be good in 2016 and we are now aiming for category one and outstanding in 2017. We have an abundance of talent, great coaches, fantastic facilities, and a clear pathway and long term development plan for our kids.”