Scot’s Broncos on brink of ‘million-pound game’
Bravehearts’ veteran says international experience has helped him revive club
HIS birth certificate reads “Torquay, Devon” and his accent is fair dinkum Aussie, but Andrew Henderson’s passion for the land of his Glaswegian father’s birth is evident in his every reference to the Scotland rugby league team he represented for a decade.
He speaks warmly of how – along with brothers Ian and Kevin, who have also represented Scotland – he was reared on square sausage and traditional folk music and while the rugby community may feel they have heard it all before, there is a significant difference because, in what is ironically almost a throwback to the other code’s amateur days, the risk for players such as these in representing Scotland so hugely outweighs any reward that it becomes negligible.
Some even find themselves at odds with management at their Australian NRL and Super League clubs who would prefer they stay out of harm’s way and extend their close seasons, but for the likes of Henderson, that is just another obstacle to be negotiated.
“Just because we weren’t born there doesn’t mean we think of Scotland any less,” he said pugnaciously, in looking ahead to Scotland’s forthcoming Four Nations meetings on successive weekends with the big three – Australia, England and New Zealand.
“At the end of a long, hard season for a player you want to go on holiday, but all these boys put their hands up to play for Scotland for peanuts. They just cover expenses really, which isn’t right.
“It’s the biggest competition in the world and compared with the big, big dollars the Australian, English and New Zealand players will pick up for the matches they play, our guys will get next to nothing, but they’re willing to put their bodies on the line for the country.
“It hurts me a little bit that we don’t get the recognition I feel we deserve because I think it’s a fantastic achievement.”
Henderson’s values as an individual have also stood him in good stead in taking on the near basket case of a club that was London Broncos last year.
He had already gone into coaching with community club Sheffield Hallam Eagles when, in 2013, he was part of the Scotland team that registered a string of shock results in reaching that year’s World Cup quarter-finals and he was recruited to the Broncos management in 2014, spending nine months as an assistant coach before being asked to take charge. The task was vast, but a shrewd move to the borough of Ealing, where there is no Premier League football team and a large population centre (circa 340,000) offered the chance to do what rugby league does best in becoming central to a community.
“It’s been a turbulent few years,” Henderson observed. The big thing for me was about trying to bring the club together. I felt last season it was just a team in London, it wasn’t a club, so the big focus was trying to bring everything together.”
His efforts have taken them to the brink of a return to elite level with this weekend’s meeting with Salford Reds effectively an eliminator for what rugby league bills its “million pound game”, a play-off for the last place in next season’s Super League.
The odds are heavily against them versus an established Super League side loaded with highly paid players and, anyway, it is probably a season too soon for the Broncos to go up, but that will not stop Henderson from urging his men to fight tooth and nail.
In doing so, he will feed off his international experience. “The good thing about Scotland is that we’ve always been the underdogs and we’ve kind of used that,” he said. “I’ve drawn a bit of that from there, the feeling that you’re not seen as a powerhouse, you’re just considered a small nation that’s never going to achieve anything and we’ve kind of taken that personally and decided we were going to prove
INSPIRED: Scotland in action against New Zealand in the quarter-final of the 2013 Rugby World Cup.