LONDON coach Joey Grima rates Leigh as Championship favourites ahead of the new season.
The Broncos have kept a full-time squad, thanks largely to the generosity of chairman David Hughes, but are third favourites to finish top behind the Bulls and Leigh, who have added cult figure Fuifui Moimoi to the team that beat Featherstone in last September’s Grand Final and gone full-time.
“I think Leigh are the favourites for who they’ve recruited and what they’ve done,” conceded Grima, who has a two-year plan to get the Broncos back into Super League.
“I would be naive to say we’re going to get back this year however, David Hughes, our owner has been very supportive,” he added.
The new season, which was launched in Manchester today, begins on Friday when Dewsbury host Sheffield Eagles while on Sunday the Bulls have a mouth-watering opener at reigning champions Leigh and the Broncos start with a home game against Doncaster.
Both relegated clubs are fancied to make the top four in time for the Super 8s which form part of the new league structure and, therefore, battle it out in the Qualifiers with the bottom four Super League clubs for a place in the top flight for 2016.
But Grima admits they will be seen as major scalps this year and he is hoping London’s heavy pre-season defeat by Dewsbury will provide them with a reality check.
“Up to that point, we’d been travelling well,” said Grima, an Australian who was unable to keep the Broncos in Super League after taking on a lost cause 11 games into last season. “They gave us a wake-up call so it could be a blessing in disguise for us.
“We’ve only got three or four players in our squad of 24 that have played in the Championship so that gives you an idea of what we’re facing.
“People keep saying how tough this Championship rugby is and they’re not talking about the quality of the opposition necessarily, they’re talking about the environment, the hostility. the culture shock of going to a lower-league team who are incredibly enthusiastic and whose players like nothing more than to beat someone of a heavyweight nature, like a full-time London Broncos team who have just been relegated from Super League.”
London are third favourites to finish top behind the Bulls and Leigh.