Re-structure could leave London player development in the balance

London Broncos sit bottom of the table, and know that another year like this one in 2014 would see them drop out of the top flight since the inception of Super League in 1996.

Opinion differs on whether relegation for the capital club would be helpful or harmful, as the club continues to struggle to attract crowds at Twickenham Stoop, beyond its small hardcore support. A winning team at the top of the Championship might prove more attractive to casual fans or in tempting new ones to the 13-man code, but cuts in funding may prove too much to take for owner David Hughes, who has pumped millions in to the club in recent years.

With one part of the RFL’s Policy Review focusing on player development and increasing the player pool, the effect of London dropping out of Super League could have on players coming through in the capital and the south must be being considered.

Despite their struggles on the field this year, the shining light of Tony Rea’s squad is Hackney-born Kieran Dixon, an electric winger who is fifth in the league’s try-scoring charts, and tipped as an outside bet for England inclusion at the World Cup.

Tony Clubb recently became the first locally produced player to be appointed as captain of the Broncos, following the departure of Craig Gower, although it would appear all is not right in the capital, with Clubb hinting in a recent interview that his future may be better elsewhere.

Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook remains the flag-bearer for London-developed players in Super League, having earned his big move to St Helens in 2011, with the likes of Omari Caro and Will Sharp also chancing their arm up north in recent seasons.

The Broncos are starting to bring through more home-grown players in to Super League, and currently 16 of their 33 man squad have come through the club’s system.

Albanian-born prop Erjon Dollapi, 20, has gone on to make 10 appearances after scoring a try on his debut against Warrington in April, and has also played for London Skolars on dual-registration this season.

Half-back Mike Bishay has featured in four of the Broncos’ last five matches, while teenagers Harry Little, Joel Wicks and James Woodburn-Hall have made eight first team appearances between them in 2013.

In the recent defeat to Wakefield, eight London-developed players featured in Tony Rea’s squad.

The club’s Under 19s team have picked up eight wins this year, including wins over Wigan, Bradford and Hull, while their Under 16s team (pictured) has recently returned from a tour of Perpignan, where they defeated their Catalan Dragons counterparts twice.

Following that trip, chief executive Gus Mackay said: “Investment over the years is now beginning to reap rewards with players coming through into the first team squad. This is important for the development of the game in London which in turn will provide us with a competitive Super League squad as well as providing players for future England representation.”

After two very disappointing seasons under the Broncos moniker since it was re-invented and the Harlequins brand ditched, it’s do or die for London as a Super League club in 2014.

Rumours of unrest will surely see a mass clear out in the close season, with coach Rea’s remit pretty clear – avoid the bottom two.

If they fail to do so, who knows what effect it may have on player development in the south.

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