London Broncos: Tony Rea will look to continue the form from the end of 2012
The London Broncos will hope Tony Rea can mastermind their return to the play-offs after a difficult 2012.
Last Updated: 01/02/13 2:25pm
Expectations were high that the return of the Broncos name, plus some major signings including Craig Gower, would buck a recent trend for the capital club and see them return to the play-offs.
It was not to be. In the end they finished 12th with just seven wins on their record. Head coach Rob Powell managed just three of those in 20 games before being removed from his position, the club deciding to bring in someone new after undertaking a review.
The board opted to ask for help from a familiar face, Tony Rea returning from Australia to take charge of the club once again. There was some signs of improvement, too, as he managed four victories in the last seven fixtures of the regular season.
Having capitalised on playing Leeds before the 2011 Challenge Cup final, the Broncos did the same again last season when they pummelled Wembley-bound Warrington 62-18.
The 10-try rout of the Wolves showed exactly what London were capable of - they also thrashed play-off qualifiers Wakefield 36-0. However, they mustered just a solitary road triumph all year, and that didn't come along until the middle of August, at fellow strugglers Castleford.
The cup offered some cause for optimism when they reached the last eight, only for Huddersfield to end their hopes in emphatic fashion. It was another deflating result in a disappointing campaign.
Ins and outs
The biggest signing by the Broncos has not been a player. Rea said on his return he was only ever in the job as a temporary measure but he was bitten again by the coaching bug, resulting in him signing a two-year contract to take permanent charge for a second time.
After spending big on players in 2011 thanks to the backing of chairman David Hughes, pushing them right up towards the salary cap limit, it has been a much quieter winter at the Twickenham Stoop this time around.
Gower, who has signed a contract extension until the end of 2014, Anthony Kaufusi, Michael Robertson and Shane Rodney all arrived last year and had varying degrees of impact. More will certainly be expected of the latter in 2012 after an injury-hit debut campaign.
There has been just one overseas addition this time around - and even that was an Englishman returning home. After a spell with Thirroul Butchers, former Widnes back Shane Grady has signed a two-year deal.
The versatile Tommy Lee has made the shorter journey from Huddersfield and will provide another option at dummy-half to compliment hooker Chad Randall and scrum-half Gower.
Scotland centre Alex Hurst is the other new face after impressing on trial from Swinton Lions, while there's also been addition to the coaching staff as former Hull KR hooker Ben Fisher has been appointed as an assistant to Rea.
Ian Ramsdale is a rugby league reporter in London who has covered the Broncos since 2008. After attending the same school as Phil Clarke, he has gone on to become a presenter, producer and film maker. In the off-season he performs in pantomime - this year he was Wishee Washee in Aladdin.
Here are his thoughts on the season ahead...
"Expectations in London are always high and this season are probably more so than for a number of years. Spending up to the salary cap in 2012 didn't pay off - with a hugely disappointing season, despite the new recruits - yet winning four of the final six matches, under the stewardship of Tony Rea, has reignited the aspirations with most of the squad still contracted at the Stoop.
The experienced Craig Gower has settled under Rea, bringing the best out of his experienced colleagues. Expect more from a reinvigorated Luke Dorn who, having been dropped mid-season, finished 2012 with a flurry of touchdowns - and Gower's kicks have been finding NRL-winning winger Michael Robertson very successfully in pre-season.
Developing home-grown talent continues to be a priority. I'm tipping centre Michael Channing, a strong runner with a mature rugby league brain for his age and development, to have the kind of year that Kieran Dixon did last season. Keep your eye out for Will Lovell and Mike McMeeken too - you won't easily miss their big frames.
Tony Rea's coaching experience, together with his understanding and support of the 'London project' - is absolutely key.
They haven't made play-offs since 2005, and with the investment and unlocked potential - there is arguably no excuse to be back there in 2013. Potentially they could surprise on occasion, but a consistency of reasonable form is what many fans would settle for."