We look at the London Broncos ahead of next month's gameHaving reviewed their opponents the Warrington Wolves earlier in the week, this afternoon we have a brief look at the history of the London Broncos and some of their star players who will be performing here at MEMS Priestfield Stadium on June 8…
Previously called both Fulham RL and London Crusaders, the Broncos were formed in the spring of 1994 when Australian side Brisbane Broncos bought the London team and re-named it (London Broncos) and they were selected for the first-ever Super League campaign in 1996.
Their opening home fixture back in 1996 was against fellow new boys Paris St Germain, the game attracting a crowd of 9,638 to the Valley for the 38-22 victory in which Duncan McRae (2), Tulsen Tollett (2), Leo Dynevor, Kieran Meyer and Junior Paul went over for tries.
Well known GB and England internationals Shaun Edwards and Martin Offiah, who both played for Wigan as well, featured for the club in its early years in the Super League.
Since their formation the clubs best seasons were in 1997 when they finished runners-up in the Super League to the Bradford Bulls and then two years later they lost to Leeds in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley. In 2003 they reached the play-offs but lost to St Helens in the first round.
This season they have reached the quarter-final of the Challenge Cup beating Featherstone and Bradford Bulls en route and will now face the only non-Super League side left in the competition, Sheffield Eagles, away in July.
Throughout their history the Broncos, who changed their name to Harlequins RL between 2006 and 2011, have played at a number of other football grounds, Wealdstone, Hendon, Brentford, Chelsea and last season both Leyton Orient and of course Gillingham on May 20 when Hull FC were the visitors which drew in a crowd of 3,930.
Earlier this season, problems at the Stoop, their regular home since 2006, saw them forced to play at Esher and Wycombe Wanderers but it is believed the club are considering moving in at the Hive, Barnet’s new home next season but speaking recently but Broncos CEO Gus Mackay recently said "Negotiations with a number of potential venues are at a sensitive stage, so now is not the right time to comment."
Head Coach Tony Rea
Head Coach of the Broncos is Queenslander Tony Rea, a former player who re-joined the club in 2012 having briefly coached Super Rugby outfit the Brumbies. He had previously been both CEO and coach of the London-based club from 1999 through to 2006.
One of the club’s biggest players, quite literally nowadays, is Tongan Antonio Kaufusi who stands 6’ 3” tall and weighs in at 17st 9 lbs. Since making his debut with the Melbourne Storm in 2003 he has gone on to play for North Queensland Cowboys and Newcastle Knights and has been capped by both Australia and Tonga, appearing for the latter in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.
Another to have played for two different countries is Craig Gower, the 35-year-old becoming a dual-code rugby international having first played league with Australia and later union for Italy – qualifying for the Azzuri through his grandfather. The halfback played in the NRL with Penrith Panthers, skippering them to the title in 2003 before switching codes to play union with Aviron Bayonnaise in the French Top 14 in the summer of 2007.
They have a number of other Aussies in their squad – prop Mark Bryant who has previously played at Canberra Raiders, Manly Sea Eagles and Welsh outfit Crusaders, Chris Bailey a back rower formerly of Balmain Tigers, Newcastle Knights, Manly Sea Eagles, stand-off Luke Dorn (Northern Eagles, Manly Sea Eagles, Sydney Roosters), David Howell an outside back (St George Illawarra Dragons, Canberra Raiders), Shane Rodney another back rower who won the NRL with both Penrith Panthers and Manly Sea Eagles and finally half-back Michael Witt (Parramatta Eagles, Manly Sea Eagles and New Zealand Warriors and Welsh outfit Crusaders.
GB international Chris Melling
Other internationals in the Broncos squad are full-back Chris Melling (GB), Warrington-born back rower Matt Cook (England) and Scottish duo hooker Ben Fisher and centre Alex Hurst while Albanians Erjon Dollapi, a young forward, and prop Olsi Krasniqi have both come through the Broncos scholarship system and into the first-team set-up.
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