Mark My Words

28th February 2017

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

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