Not many clubs have an air of positivity around them as they head into the final six games of the year bottom of the table. But while the clubs around them are panicking, London Broncos have nothing to lose.
Written-off as strugglers before the season began, they go into the run-in with their fate just-about in their own hands and knowing they could be about to pull off one of the biggest surprises of the Super League era.
For a club more well-known for its struggles than its success, this is potentially their biggest year in two decades.
It only took until round four for fans to start considering where survival would rank in the Broncos’ history. After upsetting Wigan at home, a couple of supporters in the main stand called it the biggest result since Martin Offiah’s Broncos side made it to Wembley. At first the idea was laughed off, but nobody could come up with a better example.
Even if a couple of supporters had got overexcited, who could blame them once they followed it up with that win away to Leeds? Suddenly something special was happening in Ealing.
There are a lot of cliches about this London team and their togetherness, and it’s easy to read too much into it, but it does make a refreshing change from the turmoil that plagued the club the last time they were in Super League.
After avoiding complete collapse in 2014, the new London is a much more modest club. Trailfinders’ is by far the smallest ground in the league, but it currently seems a perfect home for the club where the first team and academy are able to train together and fans are on top of the action.
And while London’s crowds are below what should be expected from a Super League club, it’s a thankless task promoting a team that most expected to go straight back down. Surviving this year would prove they can mix it with the best of them, and that has to appeal to old fans and locals who have never been to a game.
Sorry if you’ve heard this before, but it could be a turning point.
Obviously it’s not going to be straightforward whichever league they find themselves. Jordan Abdull and Luke Yates, who have both been outstanding this year, are amongst the players to find new clubs for 2020, while more are likely to still to be confirmed.
But surely after Abdull’s change of form and the emergence of homegrown Alex Walker, there must now be players eyeing-up a move down south to play under Danny Ward. It’s why the signing of Cory Aston is a promising one for both player and club — after being passed between clubs he should be able to benefit from game time from a coach not reluctant to give young players a chance.
It’s also worth considering how a regular place in Super League would continue to benefit the side. With players from the Broncos’ academy being represented in both the Academy Origin series and England youth systems, their work bringing new talent in the south through is continuing to pay off. That work wouldn’t end if the side were relegated, but if teenagers can see a pathway into the top flight surely that has to work in the Broncos’ favour when trying to attract the best to play rugby league.
That’s before even getting to the positives that representation in London bring to the sport; the boost in media coverage, and the extra players and fans to tap-into with more long-term thinking than a one-year stint allows.
After endless debates about expansion, stadiums and off the field issues, London can make their case purely on merit. If the Broncos can pull it off then it’ll go down as one of their most memorable seasons in recent history. And if they don’t? Then they’ll go again in 2020.
If this year, and the past 40, has proved anything, it’s that it won’t be that easy to get rid of them.