One of London Broncos’ longest serving members of the backroom team is celebrating his 10th season with the club.
Head of Performance Mike Eccles joined the Broncos in 2012 in a strength and conditioning and sports science role. It enabled Eccles to combine his passion for sports science and Rugby League and experience London life, moving from Greater Manchester.
Super League ambition
He joined the club on a short-term deal and a decade later he is still here. And his passion for the club is as strong as ever, as is his burning desire to return to the Super League.
“We worked so hard to win promotion to the Super League in 2018,” said Eccles. “That year was the culmination of a three-year plan that was perfectly executed.
“To be relegated after winning 10 games was devastating. To go down on points difference with the most wins ever accumulated by a promoted team did not provide us with any consolation either. It was a great effort but ultimately the outcome was relegation.
“My goal now is to help get the club back into Super League and establish ourselves at that level. This club should be an established Super League club and getting there is what drives me every single day. My passion to deliver this is higher than ever.
“I’ve got no plans to move on. London is home for me now, my children were born here, my family are settled and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the club and still have goals to achieve.
“I oversee all aspects of performance at the club and tie those responsibilities together with strong communication between the players, coaches, strength and conditioning staff and medical team.”
Eccles’ pathway to employment with the Broncos was sparked in the mid-noughties. During his teenage years, he was a keen footballer and represented Wigan Athletic at academy level.
A career as a professional footballer did not work out, so Eccles completed a sport-science degree at Edge Hill University. This led to a role with Salford Red Devils as Head of Strength and Conditioning before he joined the Broncos.
“I was a Jack of all sports, master of none in my youth,” joked Eccles. “At Wigan, we all wanted to be professional footballers but were advised to complete a National Diploma in case things didn’t work out.
“That is what sparked my interest in Strength and Conditioning (S&C). I have always loved all sports and all forms of training – Powerlifting, CrossFit, Olympic lifting, Strong-man and Bodybuilding, literally anything. I would like to think my passion for my role is relayed to players daily through the physical programming I devise and deliver.”
Hardest sport on the planet
The Broncos welcome Bradford Bulls to the Trailfinders Sports Club on Sunday afternoon (3pm) with the club welcoming fans back and looking to extend its unbeaten Betfred Championship run to five matches.
Sports-science, performance analysis, injuries and player assessment all influence how the Broncos prepare for each fixture.
Eccles describes Rugby League as a sport like no other and views the players as warriors because of types of training players undertake plus week-to-week injury management.
“Rugby League is the hardest game on the planet, in my opinion,” said Eccles. “I’d go as far as saying that no player is ever 100% fit and healthy after round five.
“Each and every player will be managing niggles or overuse injury day in day out to be fit and available for selection the following week.
“You are patching players up and repairing them from damage while trying to maintain peak strength, power and fitness levels gained from the pre-season. I don’t know any other sport that has that to the extremity that Rugby League does.”
Concerning sports science and how prevalent it is in the modern era, Eccles was quick to state a coach’s instinct is just as important when it comes to planning training.
“Sports-science can help us, but it’s there to guide our work with players, not govern it,” he said.
“Rugby League isn’t an exact science. There is an element of judgement and instinct involved with my role regarding player management.
“Of course, we look at data from previous seasons to establish thresholds and set specific training targets. But the numbers and spreadsheets that sport science offers are there to guide us.
“Just by talking to players you can understand a lot – their energy and communication levels in the morning tell us a lot of what we need to do.”
NEXT WEEK: Read part two of ‘Getting to Know: Mike Eccles’ where we discuss a typical week at Broncos HQ.