Broncos bucking the trend

RUGBY LEAGUE'S NEW HORIZONS: Australian influx threatens to raise London's status, as Dave Hadfield reports, while below, an England internationa l mines South African potential

This is a critical time in the London Broncos' battle to establish themselves as a successful part of the capital's sporting scene.

Although they announced this week that Charlton Athletic's ground at The Valley is to be their home for the remainder of this season and their first in the Super League, it is in two stadiums on the opposite side of London that the more immediate dramas will be played out.

Tomorrow they meet Halifax in the third round of the Regal Trophy at The Stoop. Eight days later, there is talk of a full house at Brentford for the visit of Wigan in the league.

These are exciting, if sometimes confusing times in the chequered history of rugby league in London, this chapter of which began when Fulham set up shop at Craven Cottage in 1980 and continued when the Brisbane Broncos took over an ailing club two years ago.

Even Barry Maranta, who sold up his 25 per cent of the Brisbane Broncos and now owns 75 per cent of the London operation, admits that it has been tougher than he imagined to get this far.

"We have offered six-figure sums to soccer clubs and they haven't wanted to know," he says. "But now that we have got a real home at The Valley, we can get out into the streets and the schools and tell people about it.

"Once people come to the games, it's very easy to make them converts. Getting publicity in London is a struggle, partly because rugby union occupies a place in London's mentality that I don't think it deserves.

"But we will do it. We got the Brisbane Broncos up from 3,000 to 44,000 and we will be marketing very heavily on the difference between our game and other games."

Maranta's best marketing tool is the expansive style of rugby that the Broncos have been playing. Since they brought in a crop of Australian players several notches up from the usual London blend of back-packers and lower-graders, they have produced some dazzling displays.

A gifted young pair of half-backs from Brisbane, Leo Dynevor and Ben Walker, have been highly influential, but perhaps the one signing that shows that the Broncos really mean business is that of Paul Hauff.

To call Hauff an imposing player would be an understatement. He is 6ft 8in, fast, agile, has played full-back for both Queensland and Australia and, at 25 with much of his best rugby in front of him, has thrown in his lot with London rather than carrying on with Brisbane.

"Yes, they are exciting times here, and the next couple of weeks are the best chance we'll have of getting a big audience," he says. "It's very important that we perform and get the right results. People always like winners."

It is the star quality of players like Hauff, Walker and Dynevor that can not only make London winners, but winners with plenty of style. "We play a very entertaining sort of game," Hauff says. "In fact, we only know one way to play and sometimes it can catch us out. But it depends on the type of players you have. We've got blokes with a bit of flair and they just want to throw the ball out all the time."

That can create all manner of opportunities for a rangy giant like Hauff chiming in from full-back, and it brought him no less than eight tries in his first four games for the club. "I've had a bit of a drought the last couple of games," he says. "Other teams watch the way you play and start to read what your play-makers are doing. As a runner, I rely a lot on those players."

From a players' point of view, Hauff welcomes the news of a permanent home, even if it represents something of a horror drive from his house, shared with two other Broncos, in Edgware.

"We will start to get some home advantage now. So far, every game has been like an away game."

Their nomadic existence has taken the Broncos into some strange places, of which tomorrow's venue for the last of their games at the Harlequins' ground must be, given the history of the two codes, the strangest. It gave them, Maranta says, a chance to take their invigorating brand of rugby to a new audience, the players and members of one of rugby union's most pukka clubs.

"Much as they wouldn't like to admit to it, they were fascinated by the way we play the game," he says.

"John Gallagher, who used to play for us and is now with Harlequins, told us that they were wincing every time a big hit went in. They don't have anything like that in their game.

"We're confident about the attractions of our code. We know it's better than that rubbish against South Africa last weekend. We want to be compared and contrasted. We welcome it."

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas