After 23 straight defeats in Super League, you’d perhaps be able to forgive London Broncos for walking around with their tail between their legs. After all, they’re on course to become the first Super League side in the modern era to go a whole regular season without winning a game. However, since their relegation was confirmed, they have quietly gone about their business in recruiting for 2015 – and they look to be in very healthy shape indeed.
Boss Joey Grima admitted that, when he took the job all the way back in May, he was already planning for life outside of Super League. That’s an admirable way to look at things, and his long-term thinking is starting to pay dividends. Today (Thursday), the Broncos have announced that Richard Mathers is to become their latest signing for 2015 – and Mathers’ quotes suggest that there is a real air of positivity around London for quite some time.
When players come out and say that they have been sold by the “whole package”, it usually gives you an idea of the culture inside the club. London seem to be taking a proactive approach and using relegation to their advantage – with a real opportunity to start from scratch and paint on what is almost a blank canvas. But it isn’t just the Mathers signing that has caught the eye – there are plenty of other names that will see London become a real force next year.
The acquisition of Rhys Williams from Australia is one such example; he emerged as a real talent at Warrington a few years ago, and the time spent in Australia will have been invaluable for his career. He will come back to England a much more rounded player, and he will be another shrewd signing for London. The Broncos are also starting to plan for their youth development too, with several youngsters already signed on to full-time deals next year in the Championship.
For youngsters such as the ones at the London club, this time spent in the Championship will not only help them to develop, but it will help the Broncos’ youth structures to grow stronger, too. There is an almost perfect blend of youth and experience bubbling up in the cauldron, and that will only serve the Broncos well against the likes of Featherstone and Leigh next year.
There is genuine optimism around the Broncos moving into next season, and they have every right to be confident of a top four finish. Performances have improved under Grima (even if results don’t entirely suggest that), and the off-field infrastructure looks to be the strongest it has been for a while.
There will be always be one particular black cloud hanging over London, though – the dilemma over their attendances. However, no matter what division you play in – or indeed, what size of club you are – one thing is for certain. A winning culture always brings support with it, and if the Broncos do start winning on a regular basis next year, there is simply no way the crowds will stay as small as they have done for this season. That’s not to say they’ll rise by thousands and thousands, but there is definitely potential – and there is certainly a precedent.
In 2006, the Broncos averaged over 4,600 people (the season before, they were getting over 4,000 through the gates). Those fans are still out there somewhere, and if the Broncos win more than they lose in 2015, there is potential for those fans to walk back through the gates.
In sporting circles, relegation is often spelled out as a disaster, and a potentially devastating situation for a sports club. However, in the case of London Broncos, it could turn out to be the best thing that has ever happened to them. This is a real opportunity for the game in London – and the club seem to be taking it with both hands.