Gareth Walker hears about Danny Ward’s plans for the capital club in 2021
London Broncos’ announcement that the promotion of five academy products to senior contracts would take the homegrown contingent in their first team squad to 70 percent has rightly earned plaudits across the sport.
But this is far from a new approach, or an acceptance that Danny Ward’s squad will take something of a step back in 2021.
Instead, Ward sees Jonah Verella, Josh Hodson, Will Blakemore, Rob Oakley and Jacob Jones as important members of a squad he wants to emulate the class of 2018 by winning promotion, while using his long-held ethos of developing local talent.
Asked whether a rapid return to Super League remains the club’s objective next year, Ward responded: “One hundred percent it is – if not, then what are we here for?
“We want to be in the top league, and long-term we want want to be one of the best clubs in the game.
“That’s why we’re developing these young blokes now.
“It’s fantastic that 70 percent of our squad has come through the academy system and a credit to everyone that works here and in the community game in London.
“It’s certainly something we love to shout about.
“We’ve always looked to the successful models in Super League – Wigan, Leeds, Saints – who are consistently winning silverware with a conveyor-belt of of young, homegrown players coming through their system.
“It’s always been my philosophy that that’s the way to go for a rugby club.
“You create a good environment to develop Super League players, then throw them in and trust them.
“There’s a lot going on in the world and it was always a priority to build from within through our fantastic junior system.
“We’ve done that before and thrown them in – the year I took over was similar.
“That season we lost some decent players like Andy Ackers and William Barthau and we replaced them with juniors from our own set-up.
“It’s always been very much my focus as a head coach.
“I’d been involved with the academy before and it’s something I’m passionate about and the club has had success with.
“That year there was about 10 lads in the Million Pound Game side that had come through the academy.”
The one issue for the latest Broncos quintet – which is replicated across the sport this season – is the fact that they have played very little rugby this year at a crucial stage of their development.
Ward hopes the promotion to full-time training will help combat that.
The coach said: “It’s been tough and awful for them.
“It’s bad enough the older lads having a year without playing, but it’s hard when it’s a crucial part of a kid’s development.
“We put a lot of effort into having a reserve side this year because we knew that gap between 19 and 20/21 was a crucial part of players’ development.
“It’s disappointing to lose that but there’s nothing much we can do.
“We just want to get back to training as soon as possible, and help coach them to make up on that lost time.
“We’re at about 23 or 24 in the squad now with the majority of the out of contract lads agreed and due to be announced in coming weeks.
“We’ve left some space there to bring in some more quality when that fits, but we’re not in a rush and they have to be the right people and fit for London.
“We’re happy with where we’re at at the moment, and the boys are itching to get back into training.
“It’s going to be a longer than usual pre-season but we’re hoping that by the middle of November we’ll be back into it.”
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