London Broncos Season Preview
Ahead of the 2019 season we have contacted fans from our Super League opponents, to help to give us a steer on how they see the season going for their team.
We’re heading south for today’s preview and it is the turn of London Broncos fans to tell us how they think 2019 will shape up. We have Victor Klarfeld, Jake Rainbow and Broncos.London (a fan site giving their own views, not to be confused with the club) answering the questions. Once again, we thank them for their time and insight.
In their own words:
BL: Broncos.London has been following the London Broncos since he was a young lad in 1997. He recalls enjoying watch the likes of Tommy Martyn, Sean Long, Keiron Cunningham and Apollo Perelini, in person or via a Sky dish, tear it up for Saints in his inaugural season. He holds a 2019 season ticket and hopes to attend a number of away fixtures this season. He now runs a twitter account promoting the club and the wider game in London (follow @Broncos__London for more info). He firmly believes exciting times lie ahead for Rugby League in the SE and London! Viva Rugby League. Views his own, not for the club.
JR: I’m a student, been following the Broncos since my first game in 2011 and a season ticket holder since 2013. I help as much as I can with the Broncos Supporters Association (now a trust) and I don’t understand why more southerners don’t come along and enjoy rugby league!
VK: My name is Victor Klarfeld, I’m a London Broncos Season Ticket Holder my first game that I attended was Fulham v Wigan, 14th September 1980 in the Second Division, Fulham won 24-5 and the attendance was 9,554. And I’ve been watching every season since.
Welcome back to Super League to London.
Defeating the Wolfpack, in Toronto in one of the most intriguing games of the season – you’ve got to be happy with 2018? Can you sum up last season as a Broncos fan?
BL: Thanks – it is great to be back in Super League and we look forward to welcoming Saints fans back to London in their droves. Last season began with the departure of our highly rated head coach Andrew Henderson to Warrington and the departure of a number of key playmakers to other Championship clubs. Despite this, and despite being written off by pundits pre-season, the 2018 Broncos team produced one of the most memorable seasons in this club’s history with Danny Ward (Championship Head Coach of The Year) at the helm. We were excellent at home, losing only three games at our Ealing Trailfinders base all season. The win against Toronto in the MPG was up there as one of the most remarkable in our history. It showed grit, defensive quality and teamwork. What you didn’t see in that match was the attacking flair that the Broncos played with for most of the regular season last year. We had the most prolific attack in the league.
JR: We came into it a little pessimistic after a winter of losing some of our top performers (Andy Ackers and Will Barthau) without really replacing them, and losing Andrew Henderson to Warrington after the great work he’d done for us over the 3 years before – so it’s safe to say no one expected a season as good as the one we got! The game out in Toronto was incredibly tense but we held out and we’re back where we belong in Super League.
VK: Summing up last season – well – absolutely amazing as everyone in media thought we had no chance as we had a new coach (Danny Ward) who had to recruit new players who were inexperienced, but the team spirit was immense. We were virtually unbeatable at home as we had a very fit team to play on a 3G surface that visiting teams could not adjust to and hopefully that will help us in Super League when this season gets under way.
Last season saw our defence, which has always been our Achilles heel, step up a few gears and combined with a great attack it was a pleasure to watch a London team end the season the way we did. The result in Toronto to earn our place in Super League will go down as the greatest defensive effort I have ever seen in the clubs history.
We’re heading to Ealing twice in the league, what can we expect groundwise? Is it in a good location with places to eat and drink around the ground? Decent transport links to London?
BL: Ealing Trailfinders is a much smaller facility than the Stoop and other grounds away fans will remember from our history. It’s definitely a good place for us and is the right size and location for our current needs. The pitch is a state of the art 4G playing surface. Fans are free to roam around the perimeter of the field and stand very close to the action. A new stand is being built to accommodate away fans from big clubs like Saints. There are a total of three bars in the ground itself, the main club house features a huge big screen tv which will show other matches in SL. In the vicinity of the ground you have a lot of eating and drinking options around Ealing Broadway station. Ealing is an up and coming part of west London. Around Ealing Broadway station there are many bars and restaurants, to name but a few: The Shanakee Ealing Broadway is the pub where fans tend to congregate near the station on match day, Grillville (http://grillville.co.uk/ ) for a decent steak house and the Wetherspoons on the Broadway. Follow @Broncos__London on twitter for further ideas and offers. You can be in central London (Oxford Circus) in under 40 minutes on the Central Line from Ealing Broadway. With the advent of Crossrail in 2019 Ealing Broadway will be even better connected to central London. Full information on getting to the ground can be found here: https://londonbroncosrl.com/club/stadium/
JR: Trailfinders is a pretty large sports complex (2x 4G rugby pitches, a large cricket pitch and a couple of training pitches), the main ground is in the middle with a large stand and two small stands (one still being built!). There is an indoor bar in the clubhouse and a bbq and small bar outside. The ground’s in a mostly residential area so there’s not a lot of places to eat and drink near the ground. The best way to get there by public transport is by bus from over the road to Ealing Broadway tube station, which is on the District and Central lines. You can also take a short train journey from Hammersmith.
VK: You have 2 visits to our ground in Ealing next season but ground-wise it barely meets Super League standards and a lot of work is still going on now. The main stand is Season Ticket Only both Upper and Lower Sections but there is public seating behind the posts and standing along the side near the bar and along the side opposite the main stand but the view ain’t great. Pre-game you are better to stop off by Ealing Broadway rail station just over a mile from the ground for drinking and eating as there are no pubs near our ground. There is a Wetherspoons, for example, in the Mall a 5 minute walk from the station. At the ground there is a large bar inside and a BBQ doing food, presumably they will have an extra bar outside like they did in the Super 8’s. Parking is difficult too – it’s all residential streets around the ground and you have to get there early to get a space on one of them, otherwise you will end up with a long walk.
You’ve made some solid signings, including the capture of Ryan Morgan on a season long loan from Saints, but lost a few key players (Jarrod Sammut and Matt Davis especially) – are you happy with the recruitment as a whole (both in and out)? Is there any other position you would look to strengthen?
BL: Pundits are saying our recruitment is a little thin in areas. On the face of it that may be true but London have tried the ‘import star quality’ model many times in the past and, for various reasons, it doesn’t work for us. Sourcing talent through the London/SE Academy pathway is the future and 2019 will be a major test for that system. Accordingly, I am personally happy with the recruitment. The theme for 2019 is the same as for 2018: ‘promote from within’. Six London-born lads featured in the MPG. We have a very good crop of London born players in the 2019 Super League squad (including among others Alex Walker, Sadiq Adebiyi and Daniel Hindmarsh who are already regulars in our 17). There are a crop of other exciting players waiting in the wings including the newly promoted Gideon Boafo at fullback or wing. London lad Kieran Dixon was outstanding for us in 2018 and we have no doubt he will work hard to be a top try scorer in Super League 2019. Our academy is very strong and is now challenging all the top clubs. Most Saints fans will know that LMS is of course, off the London production line.
JR: Overall I think we’ve gained more than we’ve lost in terms of quality – will that be enough to make the step up to Super League, I’m not too sure yet, but I can’t wait to see the new guys in action. Losing Sammut and Davis are big blows, but under the circumstances (Sammut personal reasons and Davis taking a big step up in his career) you can’t begrudge them their moves and I’ve always been a believer that no one is irreplaceable! We’re used to doing things the hard way down here both on and off the pitch, so I can’t see us strengthening any further going forward.
VK: Losing Jarrod Sammutt to Wigan in the close season was a major blow as he was a class act last season and we will miss his experience and leadership and in my eyes we have not replaced him yet. I am reasonably happy with our recruitment and hope Ryan Morgan will show his potential and have a great season with us.
Who should we be looking out for in a Broncos shirt this year (and why)?
BL: I expect hooker/half James Cunningham and new recruit from Hull FC Jordan Abdull to play massive roles for us this season. Essex lad Alex Walker will be on everyone’s radar in Super League come the end of the season. Walker’s an evasive runner with pace, has an excellent read of the game and is rock solid in defence. London are expecting big things from Alex as he physically and figuratively grows in stature.
JR: Our wingers, Kieran Dixon and Rhys Williams, were two of the best and most exciting wingers in the Championship for the past two seasons, so they will definitely be ones to watch – Williams is currently on a run of over 125 consecutive games for the club which is just a mind boggling achievement. New signings Luke Yates from Newcastle Knights and Matty Fozard from Sheffield both look to be exciting young talents and I would love to see them be given the chance this season and see what they can do. Academy product Alex Walker is arguably the best English fullback of his age bracket, so I’m confident that he can make the step up to Super League with ease.
VK: The one player to look out for is our young full back Alex Walker who had a great first season and also looking for prop Mark Ioane to have another solid season.
Which of your young players is most likely to break into the first team this year?
BL: Fullback/wing Gideon Boafo has been promoted from the London academy and is an exciting prospect. London born half back James Meadows is a highly rated half and made a number of appearances for the first team last season, with a little more experience and game time he promises to be a first rate half back and is one to keep an eye on, it would be massive for us to produce a London-born half.
VK: Of our young players likely to break into the first team I feel James Meadows is the one, he made a few appearances last season at half back and will be ready to come in when he gets the call.
The Super 8’s have gone and the top 4 play offs have been replaced with the top 5, theoretically giving the top place team a better chance of reaching the Grand Final – are you in favour of the changes?
BL: Yes at the top of the table, it was absurd that Saints were not in the Grand Final last year so from that perspective I welcome the changes. I liked the top 5 structure in the past, hopefully we can now stick to this in the long term. At the foot of the table, last year the Super 8’s Qualifiers were very exciting with London, Toronto and Toulouse in the mix but I can see how it did not give SL clubs enough certainty.
JR: I was a fan of the idea of the Super 8s. I liked the idea of the best of the Championship being given the opportunity to face 4 Super League clubs, and the structure of the Qualifiers worked well, but the points being transferred over led to a lot of pointless games. Giving the league leaders a better chance of reaching the final is great – if finishing higher in the league doesn’t give you an advantage in the play offs then what’s the point!
VK: Quite happy with the changes made for Playoffs with just the top 5 in it
How do you think London will go in 2019? (Where will they finish, Cup run etc)
BL: The medium-term goal has to be to win trophies and be one of the best clubs in the league. 2019 will be tough but the squad seem ready for it. I would optimistically say we will not finish below 10th place this year – we ran SL teams close last season (beating Widnes and Salford) and have competed well in the last three seasons in the qualifiers. Whatever happens to us in the league, it will give us an accurate read of exactly where London rugby league is right now because we haven’t relied on imported players off the shelf from the NRL or SL. The Cup is anyone’s guess. Catalan shone last year and were in the Million Pound Game the year before so I would not rule out a good run for London.
JR: My heart says top 9, my head says probably 11th or 12th. Our home form will be vital as teams might struggle to adapt to our 4G pitch. Any cup run I think will depend on getting a nice draw – in the last three years we’ve come up against Leigh twice (who we have a terrible record against) and Catalans away, so if we can avoid the big boys for the first couple of rounds and make it to the quarter finals then who knows?
VK: I think from Day 1 it will be a battle for us to stay in Super League and think we will finish one of the bottom teams and will make the last 8 of the Challenge Cup.
How do you think the Saints will go in 2019? (Where will they finish, Cup run etc) Which player are you most worried about when we face each other?
BL: I expect Saints to be in the Super League Grand Final. I just looked down your 2019 squad list and you have quality and attacking threats all over the park so it is difficult to single out any one player. Your new NRL recruits present obvious threats but I absolutely loved watching Tommy Makinson carve up New Zealand this Autumn so for me, he’d be the player I’d be most worried about punishing us with tries.
JR: Saints have a great side with some great new talent and finished way above anyone else last season. I don’t think you’ll be as dominant this time around, but I would still tip you and Warrington to be fighting it out for top spot. I can see Wigan and Leeds undergoing a transition season, but come the play-offs at the end of the season I wouldn’t write anyone off. When it comes to the cup, it’s hard to predict how the big boys will do, but you’re certainly one of the teams that, if you get favourable draws along the way, I would consider one of the favourites. It’s hard to choose just one with the Saints team being packed so full of quality. I’d have to pick Kevin Naiqama however if he adjusts to Super League and performs as he did in the NRL.
VK: I think Saints will be the team to beat in 2019 and will win the Grand Final and the Challenge Cup. I fear all 17 Saints when we face other, I just hope we keep the score respectable.
Top 5: Saints, Wigan, Warrington, Castleford, Leeds
Grand Final: Saints vs Wigan
Champions: Wigan (heh)
Challenge Cup Winners: Saints
Man of Steel: James Roby
Top 5: Warrington, Saints, Cas, Wigan, Hull
Grand Final Champions: Saints or Warrington
Challenge Cup Winners: Castleford
Man of Steel: Jackson Hastings
Challenge Cup: Saints
Man of Steel Blake Austin