Forty-20 magazine editors Tony Hannan and Phil Caplan get stuck into the thorny subject of Rugby League’s southern conveyer belt of talent, in the light of Salford’s recent signing of prolific young Broncos star Mason Caton-Brown
By Tony Hannan
When Salford Red Devils had the audacity to sign promising London Broncos winger Mason Caton-Brown on a two and a half year contract recently, you’d have thought that Dr Koukash had nicked the Crown Jewels.
How dare he? London needs all the homegrown stars it can muster.
He’s their leading try scorer for goodness sake.
Feelings ran high.
Yet, hold up, guv! How about seeing it another way: a further boost for Rugby League darn sarf.
First off, all talk of ring-fencing, exemptions, special treatment or the like is just typical RL control-freakery.
If London or any other club can’t exist within the competitive environment they find themselves without artificial assistance, then they shouldn’t be there at all.
And beyond that, professional sportspeople have the right to work where they want, when they want and make the most of their talents as they see fit.
In the case of all-but relegated London, that Caton-Brown, Dan Sarginson, Kieran Dixon and others will ply their trade with the big boys in future rather than be walloped every week or knock about at a lower level is quite obviously a good thing.
Not only will a more intense environment develop their own game, it should create greater opportunities for up and coming talent at the Broncos whose way might otherwise be blocked.
In the meantime, should London actually get their act together as a Super League capable set-up, there’ll be lots of battle-hardened Rugby League experience to ‘bring home’, won’t there?
The most exciting prospect of all though is the potential that having more southern-based league players has for the game at large.
We’ve known for years that we need our own version of State of Origin and, for my money, the only format that would create the required ‘buzz’ is north versus south.
Quite obviously, we are nowhere near having developed enough southern talent to deliver that yet.
But get a team full of Larndeners dotted around Super League in the manner of Kiwis in the NRL, however, not to mention those running around in Barnet, and suddenly the day does not seem so far away.
Northern monkeys versus southern softies at Wembley Stadium?
Now you’re talking!
By Phil Caplan
If you ever need a definition of ‘paying lip service’, look up Rugby League in London.
Going right back to the very first Test series, encompassing failing professional clubs in the 1930s through to the nomadic existence of Fulham into Crusaders and then Broncos, we have furtively waved to the capital across a very crowded room without ever getting close enough to ask it out to dinner.
Either the market, profile and access to wider windows of opportunity are strategically important to the sport or we should stop pretending that they are – and why else were they fast-tracked into Super League?
Above all, since the start of the professional club’s academy and the rise of the Rugby League Conference in the late 1990s, London and the South East has been the biggest talent producer the sport has had – just look at the recent selections for the England academy and Scotland Commonwealth squads.
Whenever London has looked to blossom, greater necessary resources needed aside, the top clubs who apparently support their presence have undermined it by signing their best players and stifling development.
And so the pillage goes on, step forward Salford signing Mason Caton-Brown, a player who had not even come close enough to appear on radar at the beginning of the season.
The long term recipe for sustained success – which takes perseverance – is to keep talent such as Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Tony Clubb, Dan Sarginson, Omari Caro, Kieran Dixon and MCB together – imagine where the Broncos would be in Super League if they all still wore the shirt.
LMS had to complete his Rugby League education by being loaned to Hull Under 20s but they now have their own university and as newest local debutant Joe Keyes said: “This is my home and where I am happy. I wasn’t looking to go elsewhere as I always wanted to pull on that blue and black jersey.”
He needs to fulfil his dream by playing against the best and the fans there will have a greater buy in supporting their own.
The unpalatable alternative is that London will become rugby union’s finishing school.
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