Broncos look for fresh start
London Broncos aim to usher in a new era by toppling last year’s Grand Finalists St Helens in their opening Stobart Super League match at the Twickenham Stoop tomorrow.
The Londoners have dropped the name Harlequins and reverted to their old guise as part of a close-season re-branding and, spending up to the salary cap, have provided coach Rob Powell with a fresh array of talent.
Eight of the club’s close-season signings will make their debuts, including captain Craig Gower, and Powell is hoping they can make a big first impression.
“We’ve recruited well in the off season,” he said.
“We’ve got some good players with some leadership qualities that we needed.
“With the added bonus of the re-brand, going back to London Broncos, it makes it a really exciting time and it’s important we get a good start in front of a good crowd.”
Powell’s men made a flying start in 2011, winning four of their first five matches to top the table, before going into freefall and emerging victorious in just two more games to finish third from bottom.
The 31-year-old Yorkshireman believes he has got to the bottom of his team’s collapse and is confident he now has the troops to ensure a successful season.
“Last year we had a really good pre-season and the group had been together for a little while, which made the transition from pre-season relatively easy,” he explained.
“Other clubs weren’t quite where we were at. We probably had the best month we could have had in the first five rounds and there was nowhere for the team to go.
“If we had maintained that performance, then fantastic, but there wasn’t much room for it to dip, whereas this team hasn’t quite gelled at this stage but there is so much more potential with the quality of the individuals in the squad.”
St Helens coach Royce Simmons has been impressed by the Broncos’ recruitment, which includes NRL Grand Final winners Shane Rodney and Michael Robertson, and believes Powell has chosen wisely in handing the captaincy to Gower, a player he knows well from his time at Penrith Panthers.
“A lot of the players they’ve brought in have won big games in their time,” he said. “They will bring that winning culture with them.
“Gower has played for Australia and won a Grand Final. I brought him into first grade when he was 17 and I don’t think he ever played a reserve grade game after that.
“He’s a real winner and one of the most competitive players I’ve ever had anything to do with.
“They seem to have recruited pretty well but I suppose it could be a good time to strike at them, early before they get too many combinations going.”
New Salford City Reds captain Stephen Wild is also hoping his side can make a big first impression when they ‘christen’ the Salford City Stadium against Castleford Tigers tomorrow evening.
The Reds’ sparkling new home is a far cry from the dilapidated Willows and Wild, the former Wigan Warriors and Huddersfield Giants loose forward who has taken over the captaincy from Daniel Holdsworth, is hoping they can do it justice.
“It’s a great honour to captain the side, especially coming into the new stadium,” he said. “Hopefully it will be the start of something big.
“We want to get people excited about the club again and want to get people down here.”
The match will be Phil Veivers’ first as a top-flight head coach and marks the return to Super League of Castleford’s former St Helens and Wigan boss Ian Millward.
Millward says his team are out to spoil the Reds’ party, just as the Tigers did in 1999 when they became the first visitors to DW Stadium and knocked Wigan out of the play-offs.
“We’re quietly confident we can go there and do the business,” said Millward.