MIKE Eccles is adamant London can overcome the grading body blow that saw them fall into a ‘really poor’ hole.
And he is eager to dispel a couple of myths. Having part-time players in his squad is a necessity and not as widespread as many think and they will produce players despite formally dropping their academy.
No sooner had the Broncos stunned Toulouse to end a four-year exile from Super League than they were seemingly destined to relegation with a lowly 24th out of 37 in IMG’s scoring system that will determine top flight spots from 2025.
But what credit did the club that produced the likes of NRL new boy Kai Pearce-Paul and England’s Mike McMeeken, as well as many others receive? Absolutely none.
Boss Eccles, though, is determined to bounce back despite struggling to hide his feelings.
He said: “Our owner, David Hughes, pumped hundreds of thousands of pounds into our academy – that was for the game, not just for London Broncos.
“Then for the game to say it’s not going to reward us for that was really poor.
“Particularly as many of the players wouldn’t be playing if it wasn’t for London Broncos. How can you not reward a non-heartlands club for producing players for the game?
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“There’s a reality that London Broncos have been in Super League for 21 of its 28 years and some may think, ‘How can other clubs be ranked ahead of us?’
“However, the gradings are taken off a three-year average and they were probably the worst three years of our existence.
“We haven’t been great for the last few years. Next time, though, our three-year aggregate will be better.
“And the grading system is a matter of fact now. It’s up to us as a collective – on the field and off the field where we can help, like putting bums on seats and getting some buzz around the club.
“I just hope we can do London justice. There are a lot of good things happening.”
London’s promotion happened earlier than just about everyone at the Broncos expected. So early in fact, they are now working off a hybrid of full-time and part-time players.
Tuesdays are long, with full-time players training in the day and part-timers at night.
But Eccles insists it had to be done and the discrepancy is nothing like those outside the Wimbledon-based club would have you believe.
He added: “90 per cent of the squad is full time but Lewis Bienek came back to London for a career in IT. Dean Parata, who trains on some of the full-time days, owns a property company and there are a couple he can’t do.
“They’re two of our best players but they’re doing things that would set them up for life, so what are we meant to do?
“It’s not ideal but we’re working with what we’re given. However, there’s scope for it in our game. We’re a working class game in which a few people paid very, very well.”
As the Broncos’ products who have gone on to bigger and better things have showed, the talent is there in the capital.
And after Hughes’ huge investment in an academy, which cost £250,000 a season to run, went unnoticed by IMG, he decided to formally axe it.
However, Eccles believes this new set up – the Broncos Talent Pathway – will work better in the long run and bringing through their own is still a priority.
He told SunSport: “In the last couple of years, we’ve not developed enough players, it’s as simple as that.
“At the same time as not being rewarded for producing players, we’ve got to work out a better way of developing them.
“But the academy is still there in essence. It’s just under a new banner. The headline was, ‘London are getting rid of their academy,’ but we weren’t getting the returns on investment nor rewards from IMG.
“So the feeling was a need to improve it and I still want to develop players. We’re currently 70 per cent homegrown in our first team squad and our ambition is to promote more.”