The Self-Isolation Chronicles: London Broncos

1. Eddie Battye was a buffalo farmer.

Battye was like a bull in a china shop in causing damage to Super League defences upon London Broncos’ one-season return to Super League in 2019. He carved the unlikely path from buffalo farmer to cult legend, in doing so, after growing up on a farm in Penistone, near Barnsley. His parents used to be dairy farmers, when they switched to buffalo farming. The prop would combine his agricultural occupation with a part-time contract with Sheffield Eagles, while also paying his own way for a year with Villeneuve Leopards in France. His resilience would pay dividends, earning a professional contract with the Broncos in 2016 and was part of the side who shocked Toronto Wolfpack to earn promotion two years later.

2. York once approached to buy the club.

In perhaps one of the most audacious takeover moves of all-time, then Northern Ford Premiership strugglers York Wasps approached Richard Branson to purchase the Super League license from the Virgin Group. York had finished bottom of the second tier that year, and were looking for a fast-track to Super League. The proposal was for the clubs to merge and move to York’s Huntington Stadium, in a similar fashion to Hull and Gateshead three years before. York vice-chairman Russell Greenfield had arranged a meeting with Branson, who rebuffed the offer. The Wasps would dissolve in 2002, with Branson selling his majority stake to David Hughes the same year.

3. They signed a British-born American Footballer called Bola Aiyede.

Under the London Crusaders banner, the club had Aiyede on their books between 1992-1993. He was part of the GB Lions American Football team, who took part in the 1991 American Football European Nations Championship in Finland. They defeated Netherlands 49-3 and Finland 14-3 to successfully defend their title, with Aiyede featuring as a linebacker. He switched codes and featured for the Crusaders, sporadically, in an experimental time for the club. He sadly passed away in 2011.

4. They signed a professional boxer a year after he fought Lennox Lewis.

In 1991, boxer Gary Mason lost his British and European Boxing Union Heavyweight Titles to Lewis, as the referee stopped the bout in the seventh round and awarded a technical knockout. That came after coming out of retirement, following a detached retina in 1990 that put his career at risk of ending prematurely. Following that return, Mason had a short venture with London Crusaders, in a seemingly experimental time for the club, and featured in three reserve games. He scored a tried in his first game, against Scarborough Pirates, but was on the losing side. He returned to boxing in 1994, winning a further two fights before hanging up his gloves, as he boxed in American for the first time in his career. In 2011, Mason died in a cycling accident after he was hit by a van in South London.

5. They had the youngest Super League coach.

Most Super League coaches follow similar trends, retire as ex-players at the top level and turn to coaching, or carve their name as lower league coaches and NRL assistants in Australia. Most coaches. Not Rob Powell. He holds the accolade of being the only Super League coach never to play professionally in the UK or Australia, and was named the youngest top-flight coach at the age of 30. In 2010, then named Harlequins, the club promoted assistant Powell to the top job. Only eight years previous, he had completed a work placement with the club while studying sports management at Northumbria University. After a string of poor results, in 2012, the former Lebanon coach was removed from his position. He has since gone on to work as defence coach at Cardiff Blues Rugby Union Club and also coached amateur side Medway Dragons.