The 7 longest winless starts to a Super League season including London Broncos

Ben Olawumi
London Broncos 2024, Castleford Tigers 1997, Leigh Centurions 2021, Celtic Crusaders 2009

Clockwise from top left: London Broncos in 2024, Castleford Tigers in 1997, Leigh Centurions in 2021 & Celtic Crusaders in 2009

London Broncos are already into double figures for their winless start to the new Super League season. But how does their ten matches without a win so far compare to the worst Super League starts of all time?

Canadian outfit Toronto Wolfpack lost their first six Super League games in 2020 before COVID-19 came along and ultimately resulted in their demise.

Their results were deemed null and void, but those six without a win aren’t enough to make the cut for the top seven longest winless starts to a Super League season, anyway.

Similarly, there have been four teams whose first Super League win came at the eighth attempt in a respective year – Huddersfield Giants (1998), Hull Sharks (1999), Leigh Centurions (2005) & Warrington Wolves (2017).

Wire had drawn the week before in Round 7 before claiming their first win in Round 8. Again though, going winless in your first seven still isn’t enough to make the cut for this list!

So, without further ado, here is a run down of the seven longest runs without a win at the start of a Super League season…

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8 – Workington Town (1996)

Rowland Phillips
Workington Town’s Rowland Phillips in action in 1997

The very first season of Super League saw Ross O’Reilly’s Workington finish bottom, relegated accordingly and never returning since! Now in League 1, 1996 saw the Cumbrian outfit win just two Super League games all year, winless in their first eight..

Town lost seven of their first eight league games, drawing a Round 6 clash with Halifax Blue Sox before eventually getting their first victory away against Oldham in Round 9, 29-27 winners at The Watersheddings.

9 – Salford City Reds (1999)

Salford – who finished bottom of the Super League table – won two Challenge Cup games at the start of 1999, but lost the first nine in the league under John Harvey, getting their first win in Round 10 at home against London Broncos when Steve Blakeley got a hat-trick in a 31-14 success.

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10 – Castleford Tigers (1997) & London Broncos (2024)*

Castleford Tigers 1997
Castleford Tigers in action against Warrington Wolves in 1997

Castleford managed to finish 10th come the end of the 1997 season, winning six games, but their first Super League victory that year didn’t come until the 11th attempt. John Joyner, Mick Morgan & Stuart Raper were all in charge of defeats in the first 10 before the Tigers beat Salford 12-10 courtesy of Jason Roach’s brace.

This year’s newly-promoted London side, headed up by Mike Eccles, now also currently sat on 10 without a win, losing all 10 in Super League so far this season as well as a Challenge Cup tie against Warrington Wolves. The Broncos will join a list of just six teams to have failed to win any of their first 11 if they don’t beat Hull FC on home soil on Sunday afternoon.

11 – Castleford Tigers (2004) & Celtic Crusaders (2009)

Cas feature again seven years later, relegated in 2004 having won six Super League games. Their first win in the league that year came at the 12th attempt, beating London 12-10 at Griffin Park, the former home of Brentford Football Club. By that point, boss Gareth Steadman had been sacked with Gary Mercer replacing him.

Five years on from that, Crusaders  – with John Dixon in charge – managed just three wins in Super League all year. Their first win, also at the 12th attempt, came against Bradford Bulls. Luke Dyer grabbed a brace in a 30-24 win at Odsal, with the Welsh outfit escaping relegation due to licensing being in place at the time.

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14 – Wakefield Trinity (2023)

Wakefield Trinity Mark Applegarth Alamy
Then-Wakefield Trinity head coach Mark Applegarth consoles his player after their relegation is confirmed in 2023

Mark Applegarth’s Wakefield side waited a game longer for their first Super League victory last year, beating Leeds 24-14 at Belle Vue on June 11 to end their winless run despite the dismissal of Frenchman Hugo Salabio. Trinity had lost all 13 of their league games before that, and despite a bit of a resurgence thereafter, they would go on to be relegated.

16 – Huddersfield Giants (2001) & Leigh Centurions (2021)

There are just three sides who failed to win any of their first 16 games in a Super League season, and two of them stopped the rot at the 17th attempt. The first of those was Huddersfield in 2001, who finished bottom and were relegated.

Losing their first 15, Tony Smith’s Giants drew 22-22 with London in Round 16 before eventually claiming their first win the week after away against Wakefield, when Stanley Gene & Paul Rowley were among their try-scorers in a 38-22 success at Belle Vue. Now-Catalans boss Steve McNamara kicked five goals for Smith’s side that day, too.

20 years later, having been promoted up to Super League via a vote following Toronto’s demise, Leigh also went winless in their first 16. The then-Centurions, who sacked John Duffy early on in the season, won just two games all YEAR with Kurt Haggerty a long-term ‘interim’ boss. They beat Salford 32-22 at the end of August to end the run, unsurprisingly relegated soon after.

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23 – London Broncos (2014)

London Broncos 2014
London Broncos in action against Salford City Reds in 2014

None of the sides already mentioned came close to touching London’s woeful run a decade ago, with this year’s Broncos still having plenty of time before they reach anything like this figure.

2014 saw the Broncos win only one Super League game all season, seven less than Bradford who finished second-bottom, and the club from the capital were relegated.

That sole victory came in Round 24, when Joe Grima’s London beat Leeds 40-36 at The Hive, the home of Barnet Football Club. Leeds had led 24-8 at the break in the capital, but the Broncos staged a second half comeback with a hat-trick from Joe Keyes on the day and Mike McMeeken also among their try-scorers.

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