Evidently London Broncos are in need of more Michelin men and somehow most of England can’t be bothered to play rugby league.
Or maybe just all the other problems have subsided.
With only one of England’s national team players playing football professionally – Dorset Arrows centre Ben George – and only two selected at all in the squad for next Saturday’s Test against Australia – full-back Joe Wardle and winger Ryan Hall – the failure to find a suitable replacement for the World Cup-winning Maroons has finally started to affect the NRL side.
The team he had been on standby for, the Melbourne Storm’s Michael O’Connor, is now out for two months with a toe injury, making it the Queensland state league side the Broncos are attempting to select.
With the Exiles and Dragons coming into focus with the England tour of France before an April home international with Wales, it had looked like some replacements might be found in the Championship, rather than rugby league’s ultimate domestic competition, but it now looks like London will go to Queensland as a foreign team.
The Broncos wanted to be considered but now face the prospect of picking a mixed bag of players for what must be seen as a straightforward challenge – an understrength England made stronger by Australia’s strong injury list.
Five-time Australian champions Melbourne may be without the likes of full-back Billy Slater and superstar winger Cameron Smith, but their pack is still widely regarded as the best in the world with ex-Wakefield Trinity prop Kurt Gidley at hooker and David Mendoza and Luke Lewis, the same pair currently at Warrington, on the edge.
Yet Broncos coach Jon Stagge appeared to be part of a groundswell in London last week by saying he’d love to see a team called Brisbane Broncos on the field – considering the tradition of Grand Final victory with their close-knit family of players – and so we will now go ahead with an ex-indigenous Australian team against a team that is not dominated by them.
What we will not be seeing, however, is London Broncos. Despite claims that no one playing the game there takes the State League serious enough to see the quandary they now find themselves in, leading clubs in Australia are all aware that it’s where the best players are found.
And with New Zealand Rugby League not interested in having the former New Zealand Sunraysia side playing on their land, the Broncos’ time in the major leagues is effectively up.
Some have suggested they must leave the Championship and move into the Women’s International league, where National Cup holders Sunday League will enjoy a bite to eat for the first time next week, but that seems a bridge too far for a club who have won just two trophies in their six-year history.
There are doubts about London’s standing in the Women’s game and nothing will be won by entering your club against a top international side, but the fact is that anything short of a top-tier team in England’s premier football competition will never be seriously considered for representative duty.
If Brisbane try and take on the Lions on behalf of Britain, and Jamie Peacock is not going to be selected because the rest of the England team have been trimmed down, there is going to be an outcry from a very small but vocal group of rugby league haters.
But at the same time, even if you play for the Broncos and you lose. they’ll always be sorry you did so, as Lord Skelton and other ex-Brisbane people are probably saying this very minute.
And if London Broncos want to keep their spot as London team there is no shame in that. Just don’t play for them.