Gower calls for improved season from Broncos
London Broncos are aiming for redemption in Super League XVIII, according to captain Craig Gower.
The Broncos were expected to challenge for a top-eight spot last season after spending up to the full salary cap with the addition of several high-profile overseas signings.
But they never recovered from a disastrous start and sacked coach Rob Powell after winning just three games in the first six months.
“You don’t want to go through a season like that again,” said Gower, who was one of the newcomers. “We’ve got to perform.”
The Londoners produced an end-of-season rally, winning four of their last five matches under new coach Tony Rea, to avoid the wooden spoon but Gower says it would be wrong to read too much into those results.
“That means nothing,” he said. “It was the end of the season and there was nothing to play for.
“Going into a brand new season we need to perform well and we need to play consistently well week to week.”
Rea, who had initially intended for his return from Australia to be temporary, has signed a two-year contract and kept last year’s squad virtually intact going into Sunday’s opening game against Widnes Vikings at the Twickenham Stoop.
Gower, 34, a dual-code international who plans to represent Italy in the 2013 World Cup, also signed a new two-year deal and is confident the team can at last begin to fulfil their potential.
“There were a few things there last year that I don’t really want to go into,” he said.
“That’s in the past now, we’ve got to worry about what’s in front of us and that’s this weekend.
“Obviously Tony’s made a difference. He put confidence into the team. It’s a new stage now.
“We’ve had a year together and all the excuses have gone out of the window now.
“It’s about the group performing well in our first match. It’s at home and it would be good to get off on the right note.”
Utility back Dan Sarginson is likely to be the Broncos’ only injury absentee, with former Hull FC, Crusaders RL, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Huddersfield Giants hooker or half-back Tommy Lee set to make his London debut.
Widnes will be without both their high-profile close-season recruits, Gareth Hock and Kevin Brown, through injury.
They could make their debuts in the Vikings’ first home game against St Helens, but coach Denis Betts insists he will not repeat the mistake he made 12 months ago by rushing players back from injury.
“We put all our eggs into the Wakefield game,” said Betts, referring to Widnes’ first game back in Super League after a six-year absence.
“We wanted a big start. It was minus 10 degrees and we played players who shouldn’t have played.
“We patched them together just to get what we thought was our most competitive team out on the field and ended up paying for it throughout the next month and a half.
“So we’re not willing to do that.”
One man expected to be fit is former Wigan Warriors, Hull and Hull KR full-back Shaun Briscoe, who made only eight appearances in an injury-wrecked first season at the Halton Stadium.
“He’s ready to go, which is a real boost for us,” said Betts. “He had a contact session last week and the feedback from the physio was that he’s ready.
“He’s stronger than he’s been for a long time. He just kept coming back last year because we needed players.
“He’s a great character who kept putting his hand up, but it ended up being his own downfall because his shoulder wasn’t right.”