London Broncos’ squad for Super League next season could include part-time players, despite them going full-time following their return to the top-flight, with head coach Mike Eccles promising he won’t turn his back on the players who delivered promotion if they are unable to turn full-time.
The Broncos were the shock winners of the Championship play-offs, finishing fifth at the end of the regular season before victories at Sheffield Eagles, Featherstone Rovers and then Toulouse Olympique in last weekend’s Grand Final.
However, work had already begun internally on renewing the contracts of London’s part-time playing staff for 2024 with the expectation they would still be a Championship club.
But as they transition back to a full-time operation next year, it means there will be what Eccles has described as a ‘fundamental shift’ in their on-field situation. In what would be a unique move for Super League, London will train at various times throughout the week next year to accommodate both their full and part-time players.
Exclusive: London Broncos will not be entirely full-time in 2024
With Eccles admitting some of his squad may simply be unable to turn full-time due to their careers outside of rugby league, he has promised London will not abandon them.
Instead, they will give them the opportunity to play in Super League while still training as a part-time player.
“We will accommodate those lads,” he told Love Rugby League. “I’ve signed those players to deals already in good faith and we won’t be turning our back on them, we’ll give them the opportunity to play for the club by varying training times between day and night. When you’re full-time, as lots of the guys will be, you can train anytime.
“They’ve played a massive part in getting us to where we are, they’ve earned it, so I will not turn my backs on them. If they choose to say ‘that’s not right for my life, going full-time’, then that’s okay.
“I believe in trying to keep this squad together. It’ll be a challenge, but I feel we can manage it. I’ve given those players my word.
“Why would I turn my backs on them given what they’ve just done?”
Broncos boss Mike Eccles ready to widen recruitment net having secured Super League status
Eccles and London achieved promotion without a single player from the north of England in their squad, with a sprinkling of overseas players complimented by a large group of players produced by the club’s academy, or nurtured in the south.
The boss admitted that may change for 2024 as the Broncos begin to identify players to bolster their ranks for Super League, joking: “I’m having millions of players thrown at me.”
But he also admitted he was keen to reconnect with former Broncos players who have gone full-time elsewhere, and add to the number of players produced by the club’s academy. “There will be a reasonable influx of players come in, absolutely there will be.
“We knew we were going to lose players, so there’ll be a decent number of new faces, but I would like to bring some players back to the club. Albeit they’re new faces for 2024 but they won’t be new faces for London rugby league.
“Look at Rob Butler; he’s struggled in the last few years at some clubs but since coming back here, he’s been a Super League prop in terms of performances.”
When asked further about his recruitment intentions, Eccles admitted he wanted the bulk of the work done by the time the Broncos return for pre-season at the end of the year. He said: “There’ll be a bit of everything. The team may change but the process hasn’t: we want to improve on what we had this year, the only difference is that’s now as a Super League club.
“We’re going to need to retain our quality players, we need as much continuity as possible. It’s going to be tough, starting later than other clubs, but by the time we get to start time of pre-season, the players will be given a good foundation and good programme. We’ll be fighting fit for the start.”