Broncos bucking again

Gareth Walker of League Express checks out a developing success story in the capital.

WHAT has perhaps gone under the radar somewhat, amid the justified praise for Batley’s flying start to the season, has been the form of London Broncos.

Andrew Henderson’s side sit level with the Bulldogs at the Championship summit, with the matter of a drop goal separating their respective points difference.

Sunday’s impressive 29-22 win over much-fancied Halifax made it four wins from five for the Broncos – and they will perhaps feel that they should have won the lot, having led 20-6 at Leigh before a late Centurions comeback sealed a 24-20 win.

Not many people were tipping the capital side to make the top four this season, with attention focusing on the likes of Leigh, Bradford, Halifax, Sheffield and even Featherstone.

But the Broncos are rapidly earning respect under coach Henderson, in his first full season in charge.

The former Scotland international might be among the most inexperienced head coaches in the competition, but he knows all about what it takes to succeed at this level having won two Grand Finals as a player with Sheffield Eagles.

He had the top job thrust upon him just weeks into the season last year following the sudden return of Joey Grima to Australia, and such was the state of the Broncos squad at the time that he was then forced to come out of retirement and combine the two roles.

He oversaw a definite upturn in fortunes, not least during a mid-season run of six wins in eight that included inflicting the Centurions’ only league defeat of the campaign.

But the Broncos still finish eight points off the top four, and ended the year in disappointing fashion with a 36-4 loss to Featherstone in the final of the Championship Shield.

Henderson then set about reshaping his squad, and rather than the relatively high profile arrivals of the previous season, there was a focus more on players that knew all about the Championship.

For example instead of Liam Foran, in came Scott Leatherbarrow at halfback, alongside the likes of Eddie Battye and Jack Bussey.

At some stage Henderson will be able to use Papua New Guinea captain Israel Eliab at stand-off once he has fully settled in at the club – and that could add an extra dimension to their attacking threat.

So far, so good, although the coach as much as anyone will know that there are plenty of challenges ahead.

But for those passionate about the spread of rugby league and particularly its presence in the capital, a strong London Broncos would be a welcome proposition.