London Broncos Academy product Oliver Leyland was all smiles at training earlier this week when he told Broncos media his debut was an ‘unbelievable experience’ and the result of many years waiting for his opportunities.
The half back has proven to be a real character around the Broncos 1st team set up this year and was rewarded by Head Coach Danny Ward with an earlier than expected First Team bow against York in the Challenge Cup last weekend, a moment that Oli will not forget in a hurry.
He told us “I am just thankful for my chance and hope it is the first of many games. There were times when I was not sure if I would get here but thankfully I have been able to take my opportunities.”
Leyland started his rugby with Invicta Panthers, coached by his Mum Paula, and progressed through the Junior age groups into the Broncos Academy turning down an offer from Saracens on the way, and the difference from Academy Rugby was something that stood out for the Kent born player.
He said “It was physically a lot tougher than Academy Rugby League, and so much faster. You cannot switch off for a second otherwise you miss plays and that kind of thing. It’s also quite daunting having to boss around senior players like Olsi (Krasniqi) but I will grow in confidence.”
Oli was quick to praise the contribution his parents, Phil and Paula, have made in his progress from promising Junior to the Broncos first team, and that includes clocking up thousands of miles on motorways over the years. He added “They have both been great and really shared the workload. They have done so much driving over the years, up and down the Country to watch me play and supporting the Academy team.”
Mum Paula is the Chair of Community Club Invicta Panthers and, having watched Oli make his debut against York, was proud to see her eldest son running out in a Broncos shirt. She told us “He has always captured the attention with his speed and decision making and I was immensely proud, excited, but nervous to see him fulfil his goal of a 1st team start.”
Oli’s brother Bill is also on the Broncos books, in the clubs Academy set up, and Dad Phil is continuing where he left off with Oliver by driving the miles from Kent to Richmond for training sessions with Bill but the thought of hopefully seeing both of his lads in the same Broncos team is worth the effort.
He said “Both boys have worked incredibly hard to get where they are currently. As a parent you can only support your kids but they have to do the heavy lifting. It would be an emotional moment to see both Oli and Bill run out for London Broncos.”
On the back of making his debut Leyland praised the club for the constant opportunities given to Academy players by the coaching staff and told the players in the current Academy system and Junior leagues to never stop believing in themselves. He added “Initially I didn’t even get picked for the first origin series so that shows you should never give up because shortly after that I was called up because of someone dropping out, don’t be disheartened by things and just take your opportunities.”
“In my first game at Leeds I was taken off quite early. I was really small, but just stick at it and those chances will come.”