London plan to beat the brawn drain

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The Independent Online

London's combination of experienced Australians and emerging British talent have been travelling so well this season that there is a real risk of the team wandering off in all directions this winter. The Broncos' away form has taken them to the fringes of the play-off zone, but the players who have made it possible are much sought-after elsewhere.

London, who are at Warrington this afternoon, lost two players last week, although the first, the former Australian Test hooker Jason Hetherington, had not played for them this season because of the shoulder injury which has forced his retirement.

The decision of Tony Martin to return to the southern hemisphere to play for the New Zealand Warriors next season is more disappointing, but the Broncos coach, Tony Rea, says that it is understandable. "I can't knock it, because he has ambitions to play in the State of Origin series," he said.

Martin has been a valuable team member during his two spells with London, not least for his reliable goal-kicking, but it would be a worse blow if they were to lose Dennis Moran, Chris Thorman - or both of them. Moran's return to prolific try-scoring form since his switch to the full-back role has seen him linked with both Leeds and Wigan, while Thorman's name has been discussed in connection with Castleford and St Helens.

Both those clubs will be in need of a creative half-back, who can play either six or seven. Saints still have to replace Tommy Martyn, while Cas learned last week that Danny Orr will not be with the club after the end of the season.

Thorman's performances for London this year - as well as his eye-catching display for Yorkshire in the British version of the Origin match - have marked him out as one of the very few home-grown players who might be able to fill vacancies like those.

Moran's role with a club in the heartlands would be harder to define, but there is simply nobody around who can sniff out a try like he does, and that is enough to ensure that he will be in demand.

Rea has spoken to both players and is as confident as he can be that both would be happy to stay with London. Whether they will still feel that way when they are offered the sort of contract the Broncos simply cannot match is another matter entirely. Thorman has already hinted that a club like Castleford is a lot closer to his North-east roots.

London have 10 more players coming off contract at the end of the season, including senior Australians such as Jim Dymock, Steele Retchless, Bill Peden, Mat Toshack and Nigel Roy.

Past experience suggests that English players like Francis Stephenson and Steve Hall, who have settled well in the capital, might be amenable to a move back to the north.

One way and another, a club who still have much to achieve this season are already having to start thinking about rebuilding for the next.

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