Mark My Words

The month that has passed since my last column has been an eventful one for us and the sport. Massive congratulations to our friends the Wigan Warriors for their outstanding achievement in the Dacia World Club Challenge. It’s clear what it meant to Kris and Shaun, and the rest of the team and they are an inspiration to us all. I was fortunate enough to be in Wigan for the first WCC when they beat Manly and I Australia when they conquered the Brisbane Broncos in their own back yard. These occasions are massive for our sport – wouldn’t it be great to see one in London one day.

For the Skolars, since the Capital Challenge victory, we have had a mostly positive few weeks. The London Clash was another great London RL occasion, lots of junior rugby action, community games and the big one to top things off. We couldn’t quite reach the heights of the previous week and lost our way in the second period. However, what was clear to me, is that we are capable of performing to a high level – yet we haven’t done so for a full 80 minutes. This was the case in South Wales in the IPREO Cup and once again at Hemel in the Ladbrokes Challenger Cup. That said, we are winning games – although from the reaction of the players yesterday you would not have thought so.

It was great to see Simona Vavega make his long-awaited debut yesterday. It’s clear that he will be a key player for us this year, as will Jymel Coleman who is nearing full fitness. It’s always good to select a 17 from a full complement of players – especially when those players have the experience Jymel and Simona have. That said, every player in the squad continues to step up, with competition for places as intense as I can remember.

So, we turn our attention to this weekend’s game, which, quite rightly is attracting a lot of attention and will be beamed live to millions of households here and overseas. Toronto are a club with a budget not seen at this level. They are a full-time operation, with a Super League level budget, infrastructure, coaching team and squad. They have aspirations to become a leading light in Super League very quickly and will no doubt be looking to demonstrate to their owners that their investment is being well spent. We have been looking forward to Saturday since the fixture was announced and I sensed in the second half yesterday, 18-0 up, we started to think about getting ready for the Wolfpack.

Prior to them joining League 1, the most exciting part of their vision was the development of a homegrown Canadian talent pool. It’s a shame this won’t be in evidence on Saturday with a wholly NRL / Northern England based squad. Skolars have always taken pride in our commitment to bringing through local talent and as you will see on Saturday all of our players are locally developed or live and work in London. This means a lot to us and is great for the sport – yet the talent pool in London, despite our efforts and limited resources, remains largely untapped.

Saturday is a chance for us to showcase what we do at the club. We have great facilities, a fantastic community programme, and a very loyal and dedicated fan base. It’s a fantastic day out for not just rugby fans, for anyone who wants to witness a first in professional sport. We hope all of the London RL community join us and get behind the players in what will be a huge day for the club and the sport – making lots of noise and cheering us on makes a huge difference.

The draw for the fourth round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup takes place this Tuesday at 7 pm. The fixture is scheduled for the weekend following our trip to Newcastle a week on Sunday, and we are all looking forward to seeing who we meet in the next round. We have drawn Oxford away in the IPREO Cup Quarterfinal so have a busy month of the league and cup fixtures ahead. I hope to be reflecting on a successful month for the club in my next column – everything to play for and an opportunity to give the fans a great start to the season.

Best wishes

Mark Croston

After a break over the winter months, this Saturday sees the return of our youngest Skolars star’s to New River.

London Skolars Mini’s, which has seen an unprecedented growth over the past few seasons kick off their 2017 Season with a Launch morning at New River from 11am on Saturday morning.

Minis Registration is from 11am in the Clubhouse, with a training session taking place on the Main Field from 12pm.

London Skolars Mini’s was founded with the aim of extending our Player Pathway right down to the Primary RL age groups, and to give the pupils from our Sky Try Community Programme the chance to link with the club and play Rugby League outside of the school environment.  It aims to introduce the sport of Rugby League to children in a safe and supportive environment, so that they learn, above all, to enjoy the game and play it in the right team spirit. Now heading in to our 4th season, we can field sides at U7, U9 and U11 and regularly compete in Festivals across London, against other London Primary Rugby League sides.

As alluded to above of the main factors of our growth has been the success of our Sky Try Programmes which are delivered by Community Development Manager Matt Cuss ‘Sky Try funding is an integral part of building up our Mini’s section, it has enabled us to deliver Primary Rugby League into a far greater number of Primary Schools than in previous years and as such introduce an increasing number of local children to the game of Rugby League and to London Skolars.’

A new coaching team of Huw Bevan, Dave Morgan and Manny Qader will head up the age groups with Dave Roberts taking a well-earned break from leading the team. All coaches will be assisted by a network of experienced and well qualified full-time staff as well as some guest appearances by the 1st team squad.

The Mini’s Launch morning, coincides with an historic day for Rugby League at New River, as the Skolars play host to Toronto Wolfpack in what will the first chance to see the League One heavyweights in competitive League One action. There will be a huge London Junior League presence at the game, as the Skolars host the U16’s season opening 9’s which kicks off at 10am on Perth Road.

Tickets for the game are still available at a reduced advanced price on EventBrite and can be purchased by following the link below

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kingstone-press-league-1-london-skolars-vs-toronto-wolfpack-tickets-30073751400?aff=ehomecard

London Skolars have signed former Brisbane Broncos contracted player Simona Vavega for the 2017 season.
Vavega was part of the Broncos junior development system after signing as a 14 year while living on the Sunshine Coast in Australia before training as part of the full-time squad under Wayne Bennett in 2007 to 2008.
An Australian Schoolboy, he was also a scholarship holder of the Wayne Bennet Coached Queensland Academy of Sport Rugby League program and the Australian Institute of Sport.
His first year of Senior football was with the Wests Panthers Colts under coach and former Broncos Forward Glen Lazarus before moving playing at Aspley Colts under former Broncos Hardman and now ACT Brumbies Defence Coach, Peter Ryan.
Vavega spent time playing for Norths Devils in the Queensland Cup, whilst contracted with the Broncos and most recently helped set up the West Brisbane Panthers in the Brisbane A Grade competition.
“I’m really looking forward to the season ahead with the Skolars. Head Coach Jermaine Coleman and his coaching staff have done a great job developing the team and club over the last couple of years and I look forward to being part of that continued development.”

A truly historic day for rugby league and sport is closing in. The highly ambitious venture that is Toronto Wolfpack will kick off their campaign to dominate the World of Rugby league by playing London Skolars at New River Stadium on the White Hart Lane on March 4th 2.30 p.m.

The game kicks off the Kingstone Press League 1 season and a record crowd is expected to descend on Wood Green, North London. Ticket sales have been very strong and have included purchases from as far afield as Holland, Germany and of course Canada. Many true rugby league supporters are also making every effort to be there and be able to say in years to come they were there when the Wolfpack made their debut.

With much anticipation surrounding the match, which will be broadcast live throughout the United Kingdom on Premier Sports, the Skolars are hopeful that a bumper crowd will be in attendance for the match.

The New River Stadium has recently had a £5m face lift, which includes a new clubhouse, offices and gym for the Skolars and a superb new 3g pitch. The facilities are as good as most in League 1 if not most of the Championship. This development really does also show Skolars ambitions to organically improve on and off the field.

The day will be a festival of rugby league with up to 20 London & South East junior league teams taking part in a 9s tournament in the morning at the Under 16 & 18 age groups. Later a Masters Festival involving Masters RL teams from across the South will add to the occasion.

Alongside the extensive festival of rugby, there will also be lots to keep people entertained on the day. The Bryan Adams Experience will also be playing before and after half time. They are one of the UK’s premier tribute acts and will no doubt keep the crowd entertained as the action takes a rest on the field.

In what has become a permanent fixture at London Skolars events, a wide selection of Real Ale will be available in the fans zone. Alongside this, there will be BBQs and other food points. A late bar will be in place also, for those who want to carry on into the evening.

Skolars showed great promise last year to finish in the top 8 and consolidating their position as the leading Southern based side in League 1. The side is largely the same as last year with some key additions such as barn storming Lamont Bryan and ex-Brisbane Bronco Simona Vavega. The coaching team is once again ably led by Head Coach Jermaine Coleman who feels he learnt valuable lessons from last year’s campaign.

The World of Rugby League will be expecting Toronto to walk the game especially after their solid 26 – 20 to Challenge Cup Champions Hull a few weeks ago. However Skolars hope to spring a surprise by hosting the Wolfpack first up and also playing at home on the familiar New River pitch.

Jac Davies the clubs GM had this to say “The game against Toronto is being keenly anticipated by the Rugby World. We are proud we can welcome them to New River & the World Famous White Hart Lane. It should be an awesome day and event and we would encourage all rugby fans to come and witness it. Whether you are a Skolars or Toronto fan we want to see you all out in full. Plus we would encourage fans across the game from League 1, Championship, Super League, the amateur game and beyond to make sure they are here to enjoy the day.

Match kicks off at 2.30 pm. Pre match events start at 10am.

 

Entrance is £12 for adults & £6 concessions. Tickets can be bought here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kingstone-press-league-1-london-skolars-vs-toronto-wolfpack-tickets-30073751400?aff=efbevent

 

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