London Broncos were confirmed as part of the new English Summer Super League competition, despite protests from a number of northern clubs.
London director, Barry Maranta, a former chairman of the Brisbane Broncos, attended a meeting of English clubs in Huddersfield, where the number of teams in Super League was reduced from 14 to 12.
The meeting was told by Super League representatives that London’s place in the 1996 competition was non-negotiable, even though their performances in the Second Division in 1994-95, were underwhelming.
This angered Yorkshire clubs, Keighley and Batley, which, under the old system, would have been promoted to the top division. London, under coach, Gary Grienke, finished fourth in the championship, behind Keighley, Batley and Huddersfield, but ahead of the likes of Hull Kingston Rovers and Leigh.
News Corp., backers of Super League, did not want teams from towns or cities, which they believed did not have appropriate stadiums and/or corporate support. Keighley and Batley were regarded as ‘unfashionable’ clubs. ‘News’ executives knew they needed a team in London, to give the new competition credibility on the world stage, as part of Super League’s ‘vision’ for the code.
The Huddersfield meeting resolved to have a 12 team Super League; a first division of 10 clubs and a second division of 10.
The proposed Super League clubs were: Bradford Northern, Halifax, Castleford, Leeds, London, Oldham, Paris, St Helens, Sheffield, Warrington, Wigan and Workington.
There had been a proposal for Castleford to merge with Wakefield and Featherstone, their bitter local rivals, to form a ‘super team’. Fans of those three clubs picketed the Huddersfield meeting, in protest.
London had been around since 1980, forming first as Fulham, and playing out of Craven Cottage, home ground of Fulham Football Club.
Former Test centre, Tony Currie was appointed coach of London for that first Super League season. Their roster included the likes of former Brisbane Broncos, Terry Matterson, Gavin Allen and David Krause; British Test winger, Martin Offiah; Gold Coast Seagulls’ utility, Peter Gill and Brisbane Rugby League (BRL) stalwarts, Kevin Langer and Graham Strutton.
Meanwhile, Kiwi bad boy, Brendan Tuuta linked with Super League aligned Western Reds in the Australian Rugby League competition, after completing a stint at Featherstone.
It also was confirmed that Papua New Guinea Test halfback, Adrian Lam would be eligible for the Queensland State of Origin side, given all his club and schools football had been played in Brisbane. North Queensland Cowboys’ halfback, Laurie Spina was the only other halfback holding down a first grade spot in the ARL, who was not aligned with Super League. (State selectors were under instructions not to consider ‘rebel’ players, such as Broncos’ halfback, Allan Langer).
Lam had played strongly in the Roosters’ 26-22 loss to the Warriors in Auckland a few days earlier, marking Test halfback, Greg Alexander, who was aligned with SL. It was felt Lam only needed another strong game against the South Queensland Crushers’ British Test halfback, Mike Ford, to be named Queensland’s number 7.
At the judiciary, Roosters’ forward, Tony Iro was banned for two games for a high shot on Warriors’ forward, Joe Vagana.
Talents scouts, including Arthur Beetson (Roosters), Cyril Connell (Broncos) and Mark Murray (Redcliffe) attended the Queensland under-19 and under-17 titles at Dalby. North Queensland Cowboys sent their coach, Grant Bell.
South Coast’s Ben Ikin was selected in the Queensland Country under-19 side. Ikin, who was playing first grade for Gold Coast Seagulls, would go on to play Origin for Qld later that season.
1 Australian forward, Don McKinnon bursts into the clear against Fulham at Craven Cottage in 1982
2 Watersheddings, home ground of Oldham Rugby League
3 British Test halfback, Mike Ford in action for South Queensland Crushers.