London Broncos head coach Tony Rea says the club have felt 'really welcome in the community' after relocating to north London

Broncos head coach Tony Rea and assistant coach Joe Grima

Broncos head coach Tony Rea and assistant coach Joe Grima

First published in Sport

Rugby League club London Broncos kick off their new season on Sunday at Widnes having relocated from south-west London to north London.

Broncos have set up a base at Underhill, the former home of Barnet and will be playing their games at the Bees’ The Hive facility.

It’s been a traumatic few months for the capital’s Super League club but according to head coach Tony Rea, it’s been an easy transition.

“We feel really welcome in the community and really settled,” he said. “Bizarrely after just a day it felt really local and easy and I think everyone has really enjoyed it.

“Underhill has been really good. A lot of the guys are based around the High Barnet, Woodside Park, Finchley, Edgware areas and have been really enjoying it.

“Unlike some pro teams we haven’t had lunches on site, we encourage players to go out onto the high street to mix and move around.

“We want people to know we’re here and the players to know about the area. We encourage them to go to different places and meet new people.”

And the appearance of track-suited Rugby League players has already prompted some inquisitive locals.

“It’s been quite funny,” said Rea. “The other night myself and assistant coach Joe Grima went for something to eat at local restaurants after we’d finished for the day.

"We had our tracksuits on and five different people came up to us and said ‘where are you from, what do you do?’

“That’s when you get a bit excited, all the young blokes reckoned they’d be good at it and a couple of waiters fancied themselves as Rugby League players.”

With a hugely revamped squad and their pre-season preparation not as extensive as other clubs it presents a huge challenge for the club but Rea is undaunted.

“It’s a new opportunity,” he said. “Everyone starts the same. You’ve got to get out and create your own momentum so we’ve got to be really ready to be our best and see where our best takes us.

“Our challenges are the same; we’ve got to play really well. We’re going to have tough moments but it’s how we deal and react that’s going to be really important to us.”

So what would he say to people who have never seen Rugby League?

“It’s a great TV sport but it’s fantastic live. It’s a totally different event and game to what you will have been to before.

“Do yourselves a favour, just get out and have a look at it, experience it. Make your own choice and when you enjoy it, promise yourself you’ll come back next time.”

Broncos’, who have entered into a third year of sponsorship with Selco, preparations for the forthcoming campaign have been boosted with the signing of French international Tony Gigot.

The 23-year-old half back from Avignon made his Super League debut for the Catalan Dragons in 2010. He went on to play 17 games for them during the season and also made his international debut for France.

The following year he made eight first-team appearances for the Dragons as well as playing 12 games for Toulouse Olympique in the Championship.

Gigot is no stranger to the capital having had a short spell with Harlequins RL but he didn’t play first-team football.

The club play their first home game at The Hive on Saturday, February 22 when they take on the Salford Red Devils. Kick off is at 3pm.

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