When it comes to Rugby League in London, the biggest city in the United Kingdom often divides opinion more than any other.
With the relegation of London’s premier club to the second tier this season, London Rugby League is coming under the spotlight more than it ever has done before. However, ask anyone involved with the development of the game down South, and they will tell you the foundations are in place for a bright, promising future.
And at three junior clubs in particular this weekend, there will be a great sense of pride on display – because three former Broncos academy products will be taking to the field in the biggest game of the year: the Super League Grand Final.
One of those – arguably the first Londoner to crack Super League in recent years – is St Helens’ Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook. He believes that the fact he and former teammates Dan Sarginson and Tony Clubb will be walking out at Old Trafford this weekend can only do good things for the game in London – and believes it proves that if you look closely, the talent in the capital is very much there to be tapped into.
“It’s fantastic for London; it shows you the youth players that are down there, and the potential that London has as an area for Rugby League development,” McCarthy-Scarsbrook said. “Obviously Wigan knew that – that’s why they signed Tony and Dan – and Saints knew that by signing me up.
“It’s a great advert for rugby down South. I don’t see why things like this can’t have an impact on the development down there. If people are watching the game and realise there’s three London lads playing in the biggest game of the year, if it gets one kid out there and playing then it is helping the cause.
“We did it the hard way; we’ve all been through some tough times at London, but now we’re up here and reaping the rewards. It’s fantastic, especially for those two in particular.”
The trio of Londoners’ tale is similar to that of St Helens in 2014 – cast aside as also-rans without a second thought. On several occasions this year the Saints have been written off due to injuries in key positions – something McCarthy-Scarsbrook completely understands – but they are now 80 minutes away from becoming Super League Champions for the first time since 2006.
“A couple of people have written us off this year, and they’re entitled to do that, because we lost three main players. They’ve looked at that and wondered where we’d go next. When you lose that many players, we were lucky that we had a week off because of the Challenge Cup Final.
“We’ve had a mini pre-season almost in the middle of the year, and that’s really paid off for us now, because we’ve come through it and battled to the biggest game of the season.”
The man affectionately known as ‘LMS’ is one of the game’s good guys, and was typically on great form when TotalRL.com sat down with him earlier this week. He was asked if he had been sending his former London teammates any messages ahead of the game – and his response was typically witty.
“I sent Tony a couple of text messages before their game last week; there’s been no banter yet but that will start when I set my alarm for 2am on Friday morning and I’ll be texting and ringing him!”