Super League: London Broncos season preview
Coach Tony Rea faces a big challenge to bring together his young squad; Broncos now making Barnet their new home...
Last Updated: 05/02/14 11:12am
London Broncos: No longer find themselves at the Twickenham Stoop
The Broncos looked like they might be lost to Super League, at least for the short term, for long periods during the off-season. They have survived, and now must thrive to see them retain their top-flight status.
Coach: Tony Rea
Out: Shane Grady (Dewsbury), Jamie Soward (Penrith), Chris Melling, Mark Bryant, Ben Fisher, Chad Randall (all retired), Luke Dorn, Michael Channing, Scott Wheeldon (all Castleford), Antonion Kaufusi, Chris Bailey (both Huddersfield), Tommy Lee (Salford), Dan Sarginson, Tony Clubb (both Wigan), Jamie O'Callaghan (London Skolars), Michael Witt (St George Illawarra), Alex Hurst, David Howell, Shane Rodney, Michael Robertson, Liam Colbon (all released)
In: Nesiasi Mataitonga (Cronulla), Nick Slyney (Brisbane), James Duckworth, Thomas Minns, Alex Foster (all Leeds on loan), George Griffin (Hull KR), Denny Solomona (Melbourne), Scott Moore (North Queensland), James Cunningham (Hull, on loan), James Greenwood (Wigan, on loan), Saeed Agboke, Harvey Burnett, Toby Everett, Jon Wallace (all Broncos academy)
Odds to finish top: 1000-1
Odds to finish in top eight: 16-1
The 2013 season will be largely one to forget for London Broncos after desperately coming up short on the pitch in Super League.
The Broncos lost their first four league matches before thumping the Salford City Reds 36-4 away from home on March 1 to get their campaign up and running. They picked up more points at home to Castleford Tigers before sharing the spoils at home to Hull FC in an 18-all draw.
The Broncos then snapped a four-game losing run with an improbable 21-14 success over St Helens, their first home win of the season. It was Saints' first away defeat to London in 11 years.
However, more disappointing results followed. Wigan won 64-6 in the capital but even that defeat was eclipsed when Warrington Wolves ran out 82-10 winners in Round 18.
Tony Rea's men did receive a boost in July when they snapped up talented Australian Jamie Soward on loan for the remainder of the season. He helped the Broncos reach the Challenge Cup semi-final, but more humiliation followed as they were thumped 70-0 by Wigan Warriors in Leigh.
London did win their final match of the campaign at Hull KR, but they finished second from bottom in the table just a point clear of Salford.
Ins and outs
Where to start? The fact that this had to be written at the very last opportunity says much about how late the Broncos left it to fill out their roster.
RFL Chairman Brian Barwick discussed Super League structural changes. The league will be reduced to 12 teams at the end of the forthcoming season.
Virtually all of the 2013 squad have gone, plenty to rival Super League clubs. The long-serving duo of Mark Bryant and Chad Randall have retired, while Soward has headed back to the NRL after his short-term deal came to a close.
Now for the new faces. Scott Moore is back in Super League after a stint with North Queensland Cowboys, while George Griffin has previous top-flight experience.
The others are somewhat untested, though all will have points to prove. They've borrowed from their top-flight rivals, short-term aid really that offers only long-term benefits for the clubs whose players they've got on loan.
Ben Ross seemed to have been tempted out of retirement, with the club announcing they'd signed the veteran forward. Ross then denied such a deal was in place, instead taking up a role with the Men of League Foundation in Australia.
Others have agreed to join from Down Under; Jordan Atkins was the most recent of them the week before the campaign begins, suggesting the Broncos will be a little underdone when they kick-off against Widnes on February 16.
Jamie Soward: His short-term signing didn't include a trip to Wembley
The Twickenham Stoop is a good rugby ground. The problem was, though, it was only drawing crowds for when the 15-man code was played there. The Broncos now need to attract attendances at their new home in Barnet.
It's not just a ground that the capital club have to get used to. Coach Tony Rea has almost a brand new squad for the campaign, many of whom have been borrowed from their top-flight rivals.
To say rugby league won't work in London is wrong. But, at some stage, Super League has to see more from their southern representative. With the competition to be cut to 12 teams, the Broncos look extremely vulnerable.
PHIL CLARKE PREDICTS: 14th
I hate to start a season by saying who I think will finish last, and I hope for the Broncos sake that I'm entirely wrong, but common sense leads to me believe that they will be at the bottom when we get to 4.30pm on September 13. We've got a few days left before the season starts, so they may add some new faces, but the squad doesn't look ready for the rigours of a 27-game competition. The move to Barnet will hopefully give them a new lease of life and the youth and enthusiasm in their squad will help them to win a few games.
PLAYER TO WATCH: He made 21 breaks and scored 18 tries in the 22 games played last year. Kieran Dixon can do things which very few others can in this league. He is still in the apprenticeship phase with fewer than 50 Super League appearances to his name, and at 21 has his best years ahead of him. He was a nomination for Young Player of the Year in 2013, which was a great effort when playing for a team that won less than 20 per cent of their matches and finished one place off the bottom.