Wigan Warriors & St Helens likened to ‘NRL standard’ in classy compliment from rival Super League coach

Ben Olawumi
Wigan Warriors badge, St Helens badge, Mike Eccles

London Broncos boss Mike Eccles has labelled Wigan Warriors & St Helens 'NRL standard'

London head coach Mike Eccles has paid a classy compliment to both Wigan & St Helens, branding the pair ‘NRL standard’ following the Broncos’ defeat to the Warriors on Friday night.

Eccles’ side – who have won just one game so far this year since their promotion – were beaten 36-0 at The Brick Community Stadium, with hosts Wigan scoring six unanswered tries, all converted.

Last weekend, they were thumped 52-6 at home by Saints, when their only points came two minutes before the end via a Lee Kershaw try.

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Wigan Warriors & St Helens likened to ‘NRL standard’ in classy compliment from London Broncos boss Mike Eccles

The Broncos moved to a hybrid model upon promotion, with certain players being contracted full-time, but some remaining on part-time deals.

Given their lowly IMG score, they look nailed on to be demoted come the end of this year, and that likely would have been the case regardless of how they’d have fared on the pitch.

And despite his pride in his team’s efforts being unfaltering, Eccles admitted that it becomes like ‘David v Goliath’ when they are put up against Wigan or Saints.

The London boss said: “What’s really hard is, those two teams are NRL teams in my eyes.

“St Helens beat St George (Illawarra Dragons) and Penrith (Panthers) last year. They didn’t just win the World Club Challenge, but they beat St George in their warm-up game as well, so that’s where they’re at.

“And Wigan are an NRL team as well for me, that’s the standard this year. They’re probably the biggest club in rugby really, and we’re an expansion club.

“It is really a David v Goliath situation, and that’s probably to be expected, as much as we give the message to not feel like that.

“When we were up in Super League in 2019, I thought that we were stronger then and we were already full-time, so the transition was easier and better.

“I just feel like those top teams this time have grown further away. They’re phenomenal teams and phenomenal players. They’ve got all bases covered – big & tough middles, speed, quality, the depth, it’s phenomenal.

“The point I’m making is that it’s hard to gauge yourself against those teams, it’s such a mismatch.

“But the effort there was phenomenal today and it’s all I can ask for.”

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Extent of uphill task laid bare by Broncos boss Eccles

Upon promotion, Eccles made his position clear – he was going to hand opportunities to those who had got London back into Super League, with very few casualties from last year’s promotion-winning squad which was largely made up of players from the capital.

As noted above however, some of those remain part-time, with full-time rugby league not suitable for a variety of reasons including the ‘day’ jobs they hold.

One of those is Australian ace Jarred Bassett, who has worked his way up the rugby league pyramid in the UK since arriving, playing in the Southern Conference League, League 1, the Championship & now Super League.

But the extent of the uphill battle London face was laid bare on Friday night by Eccles as he highlighted Bassett’s situation, and praised the 32-year-old.

Eccles said: “It was a crazy effort (from us), a phenomenal effort. We came up here on the day on the back of a five day turnaround.

“We had Jarred Bassett rewiring a loft yesterday in London, and he’s gone out there tonight and I thought he was one of the best players on the field.

“He was phenomenal, I thought, tonight. His defensive efforts, his offensive efforts…. to come up here and play the world champions on a five-day turnaround like that was class, I’m proud of them.”

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