In the latest of our new preview series for the 2022 season, Getting To Know, Josh takes an in-depth look at visitors to Cougar Park this Sunday, the London Skolars.


London Skolars have not had the easiest start to the new campaign on the back of a winter of change.

Long standing Jermaine Coleman departed the club to move across the city and take the London Broncos job, in the process taking both members of staff and a large majority of the first-team squad with him to Plough Lane.

This meant the returning Joe Mbu was left with little in terms of structure and time, but immediately set about rebuilding the squad following an open trial session in the hope of finding new talent for the Skolars.

A total of 18 new faces were brought into the New River Stadium over the winter as the club continued its preparations ahead of his 20th season in the professional game.

Things started brightly for the new coach and new look squad, as they began their season with a Betfred Challenge Cup victory over capital rivals, the London Chargers.

Their reward was another home tie against community opposition in the shape of Hunslet Club Parkside, however, the NCL Premier Division side had too much for their semi-professional opponents on the day and would send the Skolars crashing out of the competition on the end of a giant killing.

The annual ‘Capital Challenge’ fixture gave them a friendly between the cup and league seasons, but they come to Cougar Park on the back of four straight defeats to open their new campaign.

The opening day of the season, despite defeat, brought with it some promising signs.

The lead Hunslet 12-4 into the early stages of the second half, but a red card would leave the Skolars with a man disadvantage for the last half hour of the afternoon and the visitors from south Leeds took full advantage by scoring 24 unanswered points to return north with the win.

After their bye week in Round Two, they returned to action once more at home for the visit of the North Wales Crusaders. But they never got a sniff against the high-flying side from Colwyn Bay and limped to a 6-54 home loss.

Their first away game of the season against the Midlands Hurricanes showed promise during the first half, and they were level as the opening forty reached its conclusion.

But the Hurricanes would pull away, inspired by their dummy half play, and inflict another heavy loss on the men from the capital.

And they arrive in West Yorkshire today on the back of a fifth straight loss in all competitions, as they fell at home last time out to the resurgent Rochdale Hornets.


Returning to the club for a second spell in charge of the Skolars this winter, Joe Mbu will be looking to recreate the success of his previous spell.

Replacing his own successor Jermaine Coleman after his decision to leave and take the London Broncos job ahead of the 2022 season, Mbu has set about rebuilding a squad decimated by departures over the off-season.

And whilst the start to the season has been difficult, with a Challenge Cup victory against the London Chargers their only win of the year so far, the signs of the first victory of the league season are there as the team continues to gel.

Born in Zaire, Joe would move to London as a child and beginning his career in Rugby League as a junior with both the Skolars and the London Broncos.

Following his retirement from playing, Joe moved straight into coaching and oversaw the London Skolars under-16 side in 2010 before making the step up to Head Coach of the first team following the departure of James Massara.

During his first spell in charge of the club, the former Skolars player would oversee a transformation of the side that saw them rise from the foot of the table to a team that would regularly challenge at the right end of the League 1 table.

After a difficult first season in 2011, the club were unlucky to miss out on a play-off position during the 2012 season as they only saw their season ended early on the virtue of Oldham picking up more losing bonus points throughout the campaign.

There would be no heartbreak though the following season, as Joe would lead the club to what is to date their most successful season in the semi-professional ranks.

The club would win 10 of their 16 regular season games and qualify for the play-offs, finishing 4th level on points with third placed Rochdale who would go onto achieve promotion.

Away from the league, Mbu would also lead the club to the Northern Rail Bowl final at Halifax, where they would be defeated by the North Wales Crusaders.

However, the team would fail to qualify for the following season’s play-offs and the two parties would part ways after a poor start to the 2015 season.

In his time away between spells as the Skolars coach, Joe would launch and become Head Coach of the Nigeria national team in Rugby League with his work attracting players from Super League to declare themselves eligible as the sports grows in the African nation.

2022 SQUAD

2022 SQUAD: Kyle Armstrong; Chris Ball; Leighton Ball; Jarred Bassett; Luciano Bejanidze; Jonny Bell; Omar Benhoura; Oli Bloom; Lamont Bryan; Ryan Cane; Errol Carter; Kayne Chan-Kitchener; Doug Chirnside; Anthony Cox; Josh Dalton; Alex Deery; Connor Flanagan; Christian Gale; Charles Hammond; Shane Hurley; Elliott Hutchings; Harry Kaufman; Kojo Korang; Phil Lyon; Abevia McDonald; Liam O’Callaghan; Reece Rance; Aaron Small; Aston Stephenson; Sam Wellings; Richard Wilkinson; Jerome Yates

RETAINED FROM 2021: Leighton Ball; Omar Benhoura; Lamont Bryan; Ryan Cane; Errol Carter; Josh Dalton; Christian Gale; Charles Hammond; Abevia McDonald; Aaron Small; Aston Stephenson; Richard Wilkinson; Jerome Yates

TRANSFERS IN: Alex Deery (London Broncos); Connor Flanagan (Cramlington Rockets); Liam O’Callaghan (Hemel Stags); Anthony Cox (South London Silverbacks); Doug Chirnside (Midlands Hurricanes); Kojo Korang (South London Silverbacks); Shane Hurley (Hemel Stags); Sam Wellings (West London Sharks); Luciano Bejanidze (London Broncos); Oli Bloom (Unattached); Phil Lyon (London Chargers); Jarred Bassett (Wests Warriors); Reece Rance (Midlands Hurricanes); Harry Kaufman (Midlands Hurricanes); Chris Ball (Sheffield Eagles); Jonny Bell (Wests Warriors); Kyle Armstrong (Bath Gladiators); Kayne Chan-Kitchener (Letchworth Garden City RU); Elliott Hutchings (London Broncos)

TRANSFERS OUT: Alex Davidson (Salford Red Devils); Matt Ross (Toulouse Olympique); Iliess Macani (London Broncos); Paulos Latu (London Broncos); Dalton Grant (London Broncos); Lameck Juma (London Broncos); Mike Greenhalgh (London Broncos); Judd Greenhalgh (London Broncos); Jacob Thomas (London Broncos); Adam Vrahnos (London Broncos); Tommy Chipchase (Brixton Bulls); Eddie Mbaraga (Retired); Neil Thorman (Retired)


Appointed captain of the Skolars ahead of this season, Aaron Small is a veteran of the game in and around the capital who leads his otherwise young squad with pride and experience.

Aaron, a centre by trade, has a long-standing affiliation with the club having begun his career in the sport of Rugby League in the Skolars junior system.

From there he would progress through the ranks at the New River Stadium before breaking into the club’s first team set-up during the late noughties.

Bringing a skill and knowledge to the game and squad that helps benefit his young teammates, Small would be a regular in the side during his current coach Joe Mbu’s first spell in charge of the club but opted to depart the club ahead of the 2013 season.

He made the decision to join local rivals Hemel Stags following their admission into Betfred League 1 as the sports governing body looked to expand the game beyond the heartlands and the capital.

However, his spell at Pennine Way would only last two seasons and despite helping the Stags to the play-offs in 2014 he made the decision to return to his spiritual home at New River ahead of the 2015 campaign.

But a poor start to that season saw Mbu replaced by Jermaine Coleman, but the arrival of Aaron’s former coach and teammate at the Stags would prove beneficial as he remained a mainstay of the side over the next number of years.

His strong running style of play whether it be out of the centres or on the wing would see Small continue to impress through a period of transition for the club, even though the Skolars would defy the odds to achieve a top half finish in 2016.

Even though the team would not achieve those heights in the year that followed as the competition at the top end of the table grew stronger, the centre would continue to impress as his experience proved pivotal to his sides aspirations.

This winter though saw Coleman depart for pastures new, and Mbu return to the club.

The returning Head Coach immediately appointed Aaron as his captain after making him one of his first retentions for the new season, stating that he believed his experience and work ethic would be beneficial to the group that he has put together.

And even thought the start to the season has been tough for the team, Aaron has been starring with tries and assists for the side so far.

It is hard to disagree with Joe Mbu’s sentiments about his skipper.


21st August 2021: London Skolars 14-34 Keighley Cougars

27th June 2021: Keighley Cougars 34-22 London Skolars

22nd June 2019: Keighley Cougars 38-26 London Skolars

16th March 2019: London Skolars 18-18 Keighley Cougars

24th August 2018: London Skolars 20-6 Keighley Cougars

By Joshua Chapman