For retiring captain, Wes Naiqama, it has been a brilliant two years in London playing for the Broncos, and says the club will always hold a special place in his heart.
“Being able to play for the Broncos has been a blessing for myself, and something I don’t take for granted. The club has such a proud history, and great players that have worn the jersey before me.
“I have enjoyed my last two seasons with the Broncos and also living in this wonderful city. I’ve made lifelong friends within the team and staff and been able to experience the culture of this country.”
From a second Summer Bash win, to new away victories, finishing in the Kingstone Press Championshiop top two and challenging for a place in Super League in the Qualifiers, 2016 has been a particularly good season for the side from the capital.
“The highlight of the year would definitely have to be getting the monkey off our backs and getting wins against both Cumbrian teams [Whitehaven/Workington] away.
“It’s always a tough trip up there for any team, and beating those sides up there showed me the resilience of this team.”
Naiqama has been also been helping Jamie Langley in coaching London’s academy side this year – a role he was able to take on to a greater capacity when a knee injury halted his own playing – and lists helping to further the youngsters’ careers as a close second.
“It was also great to see two of our academy boys, Kameron Pearce-Paul and Callum Bustin, make their first grade debuts.
“Assisting Langers with the academy was a great learning curve for me, and definitely lit a fire in me about wanting to pursue a career in coaching.
“We had to learn pretty quickly that we couldn’t focus too much on winning, but developing these kids and getting them ready to take the next steps in their careers. From that perspective we could say it was a successful year.
“We managed a few good wins, but the highlight for them would have to be knocking off Catalans at home, who are a very strong team.
“Through our program, two of our boys, Sadiq Adebiyi and Kam Pearce-Paul, were rewarded with first team contracts for next season (and hopefully there are more to come), and as mentioned earlier, both Kam and Callum Bustin were able to make first team debuts.
“I can honestly say that there’s plenty of talent coming through, and we should see more home grown kids playing first grade in the years to come.”
What did the team make of their spectacular performance against the Red Devils?
“That win for us against Salford was exactly what we needed to remind ourselves of how good a team we are.
“I have to say, our second half against Huddersfield and performance versus Hull battered our confidence, but that win shows that we can compete against Super League teams and that we aren’t that far off where we want to be.
Naiqama will return home to the sunny shores of Australia once his time in London is up, and though there’s much to look forward to, says he’ll miss everything about London – particularly the playing group.
“Being closer to my family is the main thing I’m looking forward to going home. I have to admit, the good weather and beaches as well. And let’s not forget a decent coffee!
“This has got to be one of the most tight knit group of boys I’ve played with in my career. We all enjoy each others company at training, and away from footy, and the banter is never ending.
“I’ll miss everything about London. From the playing group, coaches, staff, Steve Magee and our loyal fans – I hope this isn’t the last time I see you all!
“I guess what I’ll miss the most, though, is the camaraderie I share with the boys, and the shenanigans and banter that comes with it. Oh and I’ll definitely miss Thacks telling me about that chip chase try he did against Catalans back in 1997. Have you heard the story?”
What’s next for Wes Naiqama?
“I’d like to stay involved in the game in some capacity – especially coaching – so I’m looking for opportunities in Australia.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping and mentoring kids, so I’ve been lucky to land a job back home.
“As daunting as it is – coming to realise I’m about to stop playing a game that I’ve played since I was 10 and professionally for 11 years – I’m excited about the next chapter.
“I’ve always said that I’m honoured to be named captain of this club. I probably struggled with it at the start, but have grown into it more over time.
“The job is made easy when we’ve got so many leaders within our squad in Nick Slyney, Daniel Harrison and James Cunningham.
“For me, it’s just about being remembered as the guy that the boys wanted to play with, and leaving my jersey in a better place than where I picked it up.”