London Broncos have confirmed the signing of Wood Green youngster Joe Mbu for their first team squad for 2004.
Joe, who becomes the first Broncos signing for 2004, has been with the club since joining them as a 16 year old in 2000, and his signature marks a big step forward in the development of young rugby league talent in the capital.
London Broncos earmarked Joe as a potential Super League player a few years ago, and his success on loan at Leeds, where he has played this entire season, has clinched his progression to the top of the game.
Joe's career began at the North London Skolars (now playing in National League Division 2), which was his local club at the time. He has gone on to represent England Schoolboys in an international against France, has been selected for the preliminary England Academy squad to tour Australia and New Zealand, and this season was selected in the Super League Under 21 side(despite being only 19).
His signing signals a fresh dawn for the development of rugby league talent across the capital.
With players from London at every age group below Joe now being selected for national representative honours, the Broncos expect Joe to be the first of many more over the coming years.
Nic Cartwright, Chief Executive said today: "Joe is a top class athlete, and one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet.
He is someone we knew would make it for a number of years now, and the great strides he has made whilst he has been on loan at Leeds have merely rubber stamped what we knew he was destined for.
I hope to see Joe playing with the Broncos for many years to come and we wish him well."
London Broncos coach Tony Rea backs up Cartwright's comments: "Joe has shown discipline and patience and this is a reward for his perseverance and professional attitude."
At the age of 16 Joe was targeted by American Colleges to take up scholarships in American Football, but his love of rugby league prevented this. Joe said today: "I am delighted that all the hard work I have put in has now paid off.
I discovered rugby league as a 12-year down at the Skolars, and I loved it from the moment I first played it.
I am looking forward to coming back home to London and I hope to have a great career with the Broncos."
Tony Rea has not made any changes for tomorrow's round fifteen make-up match against Huddersfield Giants, despite Friday night's home loss to Wigan.
London led 12-10 at half time but could not match the Warriors in the second period, going down 28-12 at full time.
Many were surprised to see try scoring whiz Dennis Moran start last Friday's game from the substitutes bench. Rea said: "It was simply part of our rotation process and I thought Dennis could give us a bit of strike off the bench."
On last Friday's performance Rea said: "Clearly we were bursting with desire. We were so keen we blew some good try-scoring opportunities."
Emotionally we are back on track and if we could just have calmed down we would have been okay."
It's exciting that we are creating the opportunities but it is frustrating not to see the efforts rewarded."
I just want our players and our supporters to remain as enthusiastic as they were on Friday."
With no major injuries coming out of the Wigan game Rea is able to retain the same seventeen, not that he has a great deal of choice, with a squad of just eighteen to choose from.
The Broncos are in a seven-day period that sees them play three games. After the Giants game tomorrow, London will have just two days to prepare for the Leeds game at Headingley on Friday.
Team as follows:
Nigel Roy, Paul Sykes, Rob Jackson, Tony Martin, Andrew King, Rob Purdham, Chris Thorman, Russell Bawden, Neil Budworth, Richard Marshall, Steele Retchless, Bill Peden, Jim Dymock: Subs: Dennis Moran, Tommy Gallagher, Damian Kennedy, Francis Stephenson