Broncos braced for 'fun' campaign
London Broncos coach Tony Rea has welcomed the return of relegation to First Utility Super League even though his club are hot favourites to become the first victims.
Rea reckons the Londoners have died "five times" since the end of last season and he has spent recent months trying to breathe new life into the "corpse".
There were times when the prospects looked especially bleak until long-serving chairman and benefactor David Hughes finally struck a deal with Barnet Football Club owner Tony Kleanthous to move the nomadic club to The Hive.
That the Broncos have made it to the starting line for their 19th consecutive season in Super League is a major achievement, but Rea remains convinced they can go one step further by preserving their proud record of never finishing bottom of the top flight.
They managed to avoid the wooden spoon in 2013 only after Salford Red Devils were docked two points for fielding 14 players in a match and Rea's men won their last two games, but this year two clubs will go down to the Championship to make way for a new 12-team league.
"Everyone sort of worries about it," Rea said. "But it's part of the fabric of English sport. I think it's actually quite good.
"It's interesting that it's in but we've no intention of being one of those.
"I know everybody will be writing us off but we're not looking at that or planning for that. We're quite the opposite. It's going to be a fun time."
The Londoners have had more homes than a stray cat since their formation as Fulham at Craven Cottage in 1980.
The 47-year-old Rea has been the heart-beat of the club for almost two decades. The former North Sydney hooker played for the Broncos prior to Super League and then became chief executive before coaching the team for six seasons up to 2006.
He answered an SOS 18 months ago by returning from his native Queensland to take over for a third spell as coach and worked tirelessly during the close season to keep the club afloat.
"It was probably dead five times," he said. "There was no pulse a couple of times. But we've got a tough chairman and we're a tough club.
"We believe firmly in it and in the end we really wanted it to kick away so we kept finding a way to get a little heartbeat pumping somewhere.
"It's been fantastic to get where we're at and we need to reward that effort.
"It's been incredibly challenging and very stressful; it's been every minute of every day for six or seven months, to be honest. But it will be worth it in the end."
Rea appointed former St Helens and Great Britain scrum-half Sean Long as his assistant while he set about rebuilding his squad.
Matt Cook, who will captain the Broncos in their opening game at Widnes Vikings on Sunday week, is the only experienced survivor from 2013 and Rea has been forced to almost beg, steal and borrow to assemble a new outfit.
The rebuilding process is ongoing and, although he does not expect to have all his newcomers available at the start, Rea is optimistic about the new season.
"You'd probably like to have a lot more wins than we do trying to get everything going but we've had a fantastic win with the venue we've got and I've been really delighted with the players we've brought in," he said.
"We're probably still four or five players away from having the squad where we wanted it to be.
"We're very late in the market but we'll just keep working hard and try to entice people to come and join our crusade.
"We're used to training with what we've got and we're enjoying that, making sure we're competing really hard and getting the best out of ourselves.
"In tough times, you stay tough and you get tough people around you and you come out even stronger.
"We've got to keep working hard; it's not just about being there; what we need is a really good London."