Meet the former London Broncos junior thriving in Australia with a Super League dream

Ross Heppenstall
James Evans London Broncos

James Evans (right) during his days in the London Broncos academy

Alumni of London Broncos’ vaunted academy include Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Tony Clubb, Dan Sarginson, Kieran Dixon and current England internationals Mike McMeeken and Kai Pearce-Paul.

On the other side of the world, another man nurtured in the Broncos’ youth ranks is making waves and also dreaming of becoming a Super League star.

Highly-rated winger James Evans, who turned 19 earlier this month, came through London’s junior development system before moving to Australia to join tier 3 side Brothers Cairns for the 2024 campaign.

The Brothers club, whose head of football is former York player Tim Rumford, are a feeder side to Queensland Cup outfit Northern Pride and North Queensland Cowboys in the NRL.

Rumford has helped guide them to back-to-back premierships – former England prop George Burgess played in last season’s Grand Final win – and the part-time side are on course to achieve a three-peat after 11 straight wins this term.

Significantly, Evans is proving key figure on the wing with 13 tries in 11 games – making him the competition’s top scorer – as he looks to secure a contract with an English club when he returns home to begin a degree in Geography at Leeds Beckett University in September.

Detailing his move to Cairns, Evans told Love Rugby League: “When our contracts were coming to an end in the London Broncos academy last season, we had meetings about what we’d do next.

“Chris Baxter, who was my head of youth and coach at the Broncos, recommended me to Tim at Brothers.

“Will Hunter, another ex-Broncos player, did it before me and loved it so I thought I’d give it a try as well.

“Matt Davies, who is currently at the Broncos, played here a couple of years ago and Dan Hindmarsh-Takyi, another Broncos academy graduate, signed for Castleford after two great years here in Cairns.

“He won a premiership with Brothers in 2022 and then played every Queensland Cup game with Northern Pride last year.

“It’s a decent standard and is the division below the Queensland Cup – which is like the Championship back home – with ex-NRL guys like Josh Dugan playing in the competition.

“I played for the reserves when I was at the Broncos, which is obviously a high standard, but it’s a different playing style out here I’d say.

“The weather now is absolutely beautiful and is probably one of the best lifestyles I could think of.”

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Part of Evans’ deal with Brothers sees him work in the clubhouse alongside his playing commitments.

He explained: “The club managed to sort me out with a job doing bar, restaurant and maintenance shifts at the Cairns Brothers Leagues Club, which is a massive clubhouse.

“My main reason for coming out here was to play for the club but having a job as well has been great.

“I’d heard great things about Brothers and the standards are amazing with great facilities, so it was almost a case of ‘right place, right time’ when the Broncos’ academy shut down.”

Former London Broncos junior James Evans making the most of his time in Australia

Evans, a boyhood Broncos fan whose father David played for the club, is referring to London’s decision to cease scrap their Elite Academy at the end of last season.

Mike Eccles’ side were promoted to Super League with a strong core of homegrown players but their Championship Grand Final success came at a cost. An immediate return to the Championship was made a near certainty after the capital club were ranked 24th in the indicative phase of IMG’s grading system.

London therefore decided to focus on other areas for improvement in an attempt to boost their score and in time become a Category A club with Super League security.

Rumford, a Yorkshireman who worked at Castleford before moving out to Australia to join Cairns Brothers in 2019, told Love Rugby League: “London Broncos junior players seem to have great core skills and they’re intelligent footballers who are eager to learn. 

“They are credit to a system which is seemingly not valued in the slightest by the game in the UK when you look at the IMG rankings and London having no reward for the players they produce. The talent pool in London and surrounding areas probably has more athletes with talent transfer potential than the heartlands areas.

“James only recently turned 19 but has become an integral part of our push for a third straight premiership.

“He’s a player who, in a good full-time system, would have every chance of making the grade in Super League.”

Evans, who hails from Twickenham, spent time in the youth ranks at London Irish during his formative years, playing with Tyler Offiah, the son of Wigan legend Martin who has just signed for Bath.

“I played league in the summer and union in the winter,” remembered Evans.

“I played union to high standard and was in London Irish’s academy.

“After they released me, so from there I went to Elmbridge Eagles Under-16s and played two or three games.

“Chris Baxter watched me play and picked me up from there, so getting let go from London Irish was a bit of a blessing in disguise.

“It allowed me to go and play for London Broncos, who made me the player I am today and I’ve always loved playing league.

“Getting rid of the Academy was probably one of the worst things the Broncos could have done. There are a lot of players down south wanting to play league but if the opportunities aren’t there, they will go to union.

“Bill Leyland was the Championship Young Player of the Year in 2023 and they have had loads of academy players who have made an impact.

“Not only at the Broncos, but teams in Super League such as St Helens, Wigan and even the NRL with Kai Pearce-Paul now at Newcastle Knights.

“The talent that London produce is up there with a lot of Super League clubs, if not higher.

“I think this opportunity in Cairns is for me almost ‘right place, right time’.

“I played most of my academy and reserve games at hooker with the occasional game at fullback, centre and half-back, but now I’m on the wing.”

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Harbouring a desire of playing in Super League one day

Evans has been earning rave reviews in the local press in Cairns for his try-scoring exploits with the Brothers.

He added: “My aim here is to focus on Brothers now and get to the Grand Final again and win it, which we’re on track to do.

“I finish here on September 11 and start university in Leeds on September 16, so it’s a quick turnaround.

“Once I finish here, my focus will be on my education and trying to get into Super League – just trying to get to the highest level I possibly can.

“I spoke to the Leeds Beckett University rugby league coach Mark Butterill, who said there could be potential to play for Championship or League 1 sides and even the Leeds Rhinos reserves.

“I’m hoping to play for the university rugby league team and then get trials or scouted from there by a Super League side.

“I was a Broncos fan when I was younger because my dad played for them back in the day.

“We went to the Twickenham Stoop to watch them in Super League and I loved watching Kieran Dixon, the winger, because that was my position.

“I’d love to play in Super League at some point, but my focus right now is on winning the competition with Cairns Brothers.”

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