Lads from Down Under plot Challenge Cup progress

James Gordon

The 2018 Challenge Cup gets underway later this month and we’ve been catching up with some of the teams involved, first up is Hammersmith Hills Hoists.

Hammersmith Hills Hoists might have a claim on having the best name in the first round draw, and they now face an intriguing derby tie against London Chargers.

Formed in 2008 by Australian ex-pats living in West London, The Hoists, who play at Chiswick RFC, are largely made up of players from overseas and have been represented by players from more than 16 different countries over the past decade.

Run by a committee of six, including Vince Spurr, who describes himself as the token English bloke and playing at half-back, this is their first ever time in the Challenge Cup.

Spurr said: “It’s massive. Everyone knows about the Challenge Cup and the boys are really pumped at where it can take us.

“The Challenge Cup is great for recruitment. If we can get further in the competition then we make more of a name for ourselves.

“We want to help put rugby league on the map here. The amateur competition in London is very strong. Skolars don’t do much and the Broncos have obviously had a turbulent few years. We 100% want to ensure there is a pathway to keep playing rugby league even when they drop out of the academy system.”

Hailing from Lincolnshire, Spurr spent a year in Australia and played rugby league at Brunel University.

A large number of The Hills Hoists players are Australians or other nationalities who are over on two year visas, and then move on, as well as northerners who have relocated for whatever reason.

It keeps things interesting, with player changes and variation each year, particularly in comparison to some of their rivals.

What the Hills Hoists appearance in the Challenge Cup does is give an opportunity to explore how rugby league is developing in the south, something which perhaps goes under the radar in the traditional heartlands.

According to the RFL website, there are 15 clubs playing with mens teams in London and the South East, competing in the London Mens League and the London & South East Championship.

Last season, Chargers won the London Mens League with 10 wins from 12 games, ahead of The Hoists, who finished second some four points behind.

Spurr explained: “The London comp is self-sufficient. It’s fairly removed from the professional teams. It does its job.

“Some of the teams are struggling, but then when you see the quality of the games between say us and the Chargers, you can see there is potential there.

“But we are not seeing a lot of pathway at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be any young lads coming through.

“We have some rugby union converts that come through at maybe 16-18, but they haven’t spent their formative years playing rugby league.

“It’s a weird one. There’s not much money. We don’t get any funding from the RFL.

“There’s so much potential, the dynamic of what it is and where it could go. No one has taken time to study the challenges that rugby league in London faces, you can’t just throw money at it.”

Although looking forward to a derby against the Chargers, Spurr admitted that they had wanted a different draw.

“It was a massive anti-climax. We know of all the big amateur teams we could have had like Siddal or Wath Brow and had a really good trip away, and in the end it was a bit like ‘aw really’.

“But the more I think about it, the better it is. Our games are live streamed in Australia and all the lads that have played for us before and gone back there and have started messaging us about the cup draw.

“There’s quite a bit of a growing rivalry between us and the Chargers. They came along and have won a few competitions, they’re quite ambitious and want to climb the leagues, so it’s a big deal to beat them.

“It will be a pretty fiery match, especially with what’s at stake. We are two quite different teams in terms of our make-up and style of play.

“It would be nice for both teams to be in the second round draw, but at least there will be one London team through – and hopefully that’s us.”