Rugby League: Broadbent profits from his loyalties

Dave Hadfield looks at the prop reaching a milestone for Sheffield today
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The Independent Online
The unpretentious personality of Paul Broadbent is summed up by his nickname of "Beans" - something from the cheap and serviceable rather than the exotic shelves of the supermarket.

But a player who insists that he started out with little natural ability today achieves a rare milestone in the modern game when he makes his 300th first- team appearance for the Sheffield Eagles in their Stones Premiership quarter-final at the London Broncos.

"It's money that stops players staying at one club for 10 years like I've done," says the Great Britain prop forward. "It's been an honour for me, but something I never thought would happen. I just went there with the intentions of playing professional rugby. I was a pretty ordinary player in those days. I've never been one of those blessed with natural skills; I've just worked hard."

In fact, Broadbent does himself less than justice. Although his game is based solidly on a high work-rate and constant involvement, he has honed his technique to the point where he is arguably the most accomplished prop in the country - something that is sure to be recognised by inclusion in the Great Britain squad this autumn.

Broadbent is the sort of player and captain, however, who draws more satisfaction from the improvement in the form of the team as a whole during the latter stages of the season.

It was perhaps predictable that the departure a year ago of the club's founder, Gary Hetherington, who brought Broadbent, like so many others, to Sheffield from amateur league in Castleford, would throw the Eagles out of their flight-path.

"It's only since we got back from the World Club Championship in Australia that we've started to show the ability that's within the squad. You don't bring players to the club for no reason. You bring them in because they can play the game, but it's only in the last third of the season that we've really shown that as a team."

The last match before that trip to Australia is one that still haunts Broadbent. With a 5am flight looming, they rolled over against London at the Don Valley Stadium, producing a first half that was simply embarrassing.

"They put about 40 points past us and it was the worst 40 minutes in my 10 years at the club," he says. "We have let ourselves down in both our matches against the Broncos this season and we are desperately keen to make up for it."

Broadbent knows that will be far from easy against a London side that firmly believes it is on its way to the Old Trafford final. "They're a tough team and they play it pretty physical," he says. "It's all based on a pack that takes the ball forward very well and Peter Gill is really good around the fringes.

"If we're going to beat them, we're going to have to be right at our best."

London are without one of Broadbent's tour colleagues from last year, the injured Tulsen Tollett, but the clash between him and one of the other form props of the competition, Tony Mestrov, promises to be uncompromising and absorbing.

In today's other tie, Castleford hope that they may have Dean Sampson and David Chapman fit for the potentially daunting visit to Odsal to face Bradford.

At Wigan tomorrow, Leeds give the former Wigan hooker, Phil Cantillon, his full debut in place of the injured Wayne Collins. Adrian Morley is still out with a broken jaw, but Jamie Matthiou could return after sitting out the last two weeks in order to recover from concussion.