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A fortnight and a plane trip ago Jamie Soward was an outcast, a former State of Origin playmaker unwanted by his NRL club and languishing in the NSW Cup for the Illawarra Cutters, effectively watching the clock until next season when he takes up a four-year deal at the Penrith Panthers.

But a stroke of fortunate timing has landed him on the other side of the globe, a welcome insert into the London Broncos line-up has they look to salvage a positive from season 2013.

“It’s worked out quite well,” he told TNT last week before heading out the door to Wimbledon. It’s an understatement.

The sudden departure of Broncos stalwart Craig Gower back to Australia for personal reasons left a gaping hole in the bottom of the table Broncos line-up. Some quick talking between coach Tony Rea and 28-year-old Soward’s camp turned around a quick deal to get him to London until the end of the season. It’s a fortuitous arrangement for both parties.

Focussed: Jamie Soward lines up his first kick for the Broncos

The day Soward arrived in the UK, last Saturday, he pulled on the boots and showed no signs of jet-lag, coming off the bench to almost inspire a comeback against Salford (down 34-6 at half-time it ended 44-30). Rea said he regretted not starting him, but it’s a good sign for the remaining Super League games of the season and this weekend’s Challenge Cup quarter-final against Sheffield.

“We didn’t get the result first up but we can build on that,” he said. “The chance to play in the Challenge Cup was very appealing to me when we worked out the details of me coming over here – you dare to dream that you might be in Wembley [where the knockout competition’s final is played] in a couple of months. That’s hugely exciting. 

“At the end of the year you want to be playing finals footy, but it’s a bit different over here. You can have an average year but doing well in the Cup could make your season.”

After that first cameo, England legend Martin Offiah was glowing in his London Evening Standard column about what Jamie brings to the club. Such comments were a far cry from the regular criticism in the Australian media which Soward admits “wasn’t good for myself or my family”. 

Slotting in: with his Australian teammate Michael Robertson

“I was up front when I spoke to Tony [Rea]. I said, ‘Look, I’m not coming over there to be a failure’,” he explained. “For me and him, they were a bit light in the halves losing Craig and he wanted me to bring my competitiveness and stuff I do well in the NRL. I’d like to think a few of those attributes come through. I get a chance to come and enjoy my footy again. The media pressure over here isn’t as intense, but I’ll be judged on whether we win or lose.”

With the Broncos languishing in wooden spoon position, Soward’s fresh outlook and experience can only help – and despite the short-term deal he’s already talking like a Bronco and singing from Rea’s hymn book that the team is “scratching the surface” of a big result: “We just need to get a few wins and get a few of these young blokes who have debuted in the last few months winning and being part of that winning culture so they can carry it on for years to come.”

A team man through and through, Soward says he has “nothing to prove” after being brushed from the Dragons starting line-up. For the half-back and goalkicker, the primary focus is to play well, and win games. “The main thing I want to get out of it is to experience a different lifestyle personally and play some top level football,” he said.

“I’m with the Panthers for four years from next year, so this is a chance to test myself in the top flight here rather than getting into some bad habits in the reserve grade back home. I’m the hardest task master on myself so I’ve come over here expecting to win games and compete.”


Interview – Jamie Soward: Unwanted by the Dragons, he could be a saviour for the London Broncos
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