Upfront: In anticipation of an intriguing Championship

Upfront: The League Express opinion – Mon 18th Oct 2021

The old order changeth, yielding place to New…castle.

Apologises to fans of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, for taking a little bit of a liberty with the great man’s words.

But could we be seeing poetry in motion up in the North-East next year?

In a tale of two cities (that’s our nod to Charles Dickens aficionados), London Broncos have thrown in a curveball by snapping up Dean Parata, the Australian hooker or halfback who is fresh from playing for Featherstone in the Million Pound Game and who many predicted would end up on Tyneside.

That will have further cheered fans of the capital club, who while seemingly losing players hand over fist in the wake of their switch from full to part-time status, have brought in a number of new recruits on two-year contracts as canny coach Jermaine Coleman, well versed in the London Rugby League scene, plots a path forward.

“I’ve been a fan of what the Broncos have been doing for a while now and jumped at the chance,” said Parata, who came close to joining after he played for Italy in the 2013 World Cup.

“I think I can help out a few of the younger boys and I have no doubt we will compete, and compete well, next season.”

That’s exactly what Newcastle, 275 miles to the North, aim to do as they take the opposite route to the Broncos by going full-time.

Thunder introduced a hybrid system this season as they acclimatised to the second tier after being elevated from League 1 through a bidding process to take the place of Leigh, who moved into Super League through the same method.

Like Toulouse, Newcastle share a ground, and have close ties with, their city’s rugby union club, and their stated aim is to follow in the footsteps of Olympique by winning promotion to Super League.

They’ve made an impressive signing in Castleford backrower Alex Foster, who explained: “It’s down to the ambition of the club and the plan for the future, and how they are going to build over the next few years is really exciting.

“Helping to get this club up to Super League would be one of the best achievements of my career.”

Newcastle will announce further acquisitions over the next few weeks, and with the likes of relegated Leigh, Halifax, Bradford and Widnes all reshaping their squads, Featherstone determined to mount another promotion bid and the presence of three Cumbrian clubs in Barrow, Whitehaven and Workington, another intriguing Championship campaign is in prospect.

And next year we’ll have the chance to see the Championship unfold on Monday evenings on Premier Sports, as well as at the games themselves.

That is something to really look forward to.

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