Toronto Wolfpack

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Toronto Wolfpack
Toronto Wolfpack RLFC logo.svg
Club information
Full nameToronto Wolfpack Rugby League Football Club
ColoursNew Zealand Kiwis colours.svg Black and White
Founded2016; 4 years ago (2016)
Websitetorontowolfpack.com
Current details
Ground(s)
CoachBrian McDermott
CaptainN/A
CompetitionSuper League
2019 season1st in RFL Championship
Rugby football current event.png Current season
Uniforms
Home colours
Away colours
Records
League 11st (2017)
Championship1st (2018, 2019)
Most capped73 - Adam Sidlow
Highest points scorer436 - Craig Hall

The Toronto Wolfpack is a professional rugby league club based in Toronto, Ontario, which competed in the British rugby league system's top-tier, the Super League; the club withdrew from the 2020 Super League season and Challenge Cup due to "overwhelming financial challenges", and has stated that it intends to field a team in 2021.[1]

The club is the first North American team to play in the Rugby Football League system, the first fully professional rugby league team in Canada, and the first transatlantic rugby league team.[2][3][4][5][note 1]

History[edit]

2014–2016: Origins and foundation[edit]

The Rugby Football League first received an application from a Canadian consortium based in Toronto, led by the Chairman of the national governing body Canada Rugby League Eric Perez, in 2014 to compete in the United Kingdom's third tier of professional rugby league.[12] Perez was denied permission to join the first-tier Super League directly, and instead attempted to build the club up to the point where it can be promoted.[13][14] A press conference was held on 27 April 2016 at which details on the franchise, which began to play in 2017, were revealed.[15][16] The team will be the first professional rugby league team to be based in Canada.[16] A group of 10 businessmen, consisting of mostly Canadians and an Australian mining millionaire David Argyle, own the club,[17][18] having paid around $500,000 to be granted admission to the rugby league.[19] A condition for the team to join the British rugby league system was that they would be responsible for covering travel and accommodation expenses incurred for all visiting teams outside of the first division Super League.[19]

It was suggested that it was an attractive market as Canada has the largest amount of rugby league followers outside of Australia, France, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.[20][21] The club plans to play in blocks of four home matches, four away matches, and cover all expenses for visiting teams throughout the season.[22]

The Wolfpack held tryouts in five cities across North America starting 24 September; those were: Philadelphia, Tampa, Kingston, Vancouver, and Toronto itself. From these tryouts 18 athletes were selected to take part in a tour in England, culminating in a victorious game against an amateur club, the Brighouse Rangers. Three players won professional contracts with the Wolfpack Rugby League Team following the tour, with another round of tryouts to be held in Toronto in the following few months for the unsuccessful trialists.[23]

The Toronto Wolfpack Rugby League Team owns rights to all broadcasts of their matches. In Canada, games are broadcast on CBC Live and on Game TV,[citation needed] in the USA games are broadcast on Eleven Sports, and in the UK and Ireland Premier Sports broadcasts through the Sky Network.

2017–present: First seasons[edit]

The Toronto Wolfpack taking the field against the London Broncos in the Challenge Cup at the Trailfinders Sports Ground in Ealing in March 2017

On 22 January 2017, the Wolfpack played their first professional game, a pre-season friendly against Hull F.C. at the KCOM Stadium. The final score was 26–20 in favour of Hull.[24] The club played its first competitive match on February 25, 2017, resulting in a 14–6 victory in the third round of the Challenge Cup against the amateur NCL champions: Siddal.[25]

On 4 March, Toronto played its first League 1 match, away at London Skolars. They won the match 76–0.[26] Their first home match was played on May 6, where they defeated Oxford in front of 6,281 fans at Lamport Stadium.[27]

The Wolfpack would go on to have a successful campaign, winning all fifteen of their regular season matches and five out of seven playoff games. The Wolfpack finished the season with 41 points from 22 games and points difference of +921.

Promotion to the Championship, and the Kingston Press League 1 Title, was secured on 9 September 2017 with the Wolfpack defeating Barrow Raiders 26–2 in front of 7,972 spectators. They closed with a win against Doncaster in front of a record attendance of 8,456.

Liam Kay with the Wolfpack during a match in February 2018

The following season saw continued success by the Wolfpack; winning the league leaders shield in the championship competition. Following a round 4 defeat to London Broncos they put together an 18-game winning streak from March 2018 [28] which was eventually broken with a home defeat to Featherstone Rovers in late July. They performed creditably in the Super 8s with five wins from seven games, defeating Super League sides Widnes Vikings and Leeds Rhinos. However, they fell short of automatic promotion on points difference and London Broncos beat the Wolfpack 4–2 at Lamport Stadium in the Million Pound Game, condemning the Wolfpack to another season in the Championship.

In June 2019, a group of 19 "older" Rugby League players and 2 supporters made up from around the world, toured to Toronto in Canada to introduce "Masters Rugby League" to the Canadians. Masters is a modified version of the game of Rugby League and players must be over 35 years of age to play. With no upper age limit, older and players of any ability are all welcome. The Masters format was first played in New Zealand in 1992. By 2004 it was introduced to Australia and to the UK in 2008, France in ca: 2011 (and again in 2016), Ireland was next in early 2019).

Masters players from traditional Rugby League areas such as Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire joined with players from the less traditional Rugby League areas, such as London, South East and the North East of England. With two players Joining from the Southern Hemisphere, (New Zealand and Australia) the tour party was a truly International mix of players from ages 36 to 77, touring under the name “South London Silverbacks Masters”. So with support from The Toronto WolfPack, and some very hardworking and dedicated Rugby League volunteers in Canada, who managed to form two teams as opposition (Toronto Wolfpack Masters and the Ontario Greybeards Masters), the tour went ahead.

Two Masters games were played at the Lamport Stadium in Toronto and the tourists were also guests at Barrie High School, spending the day helping Toronto Wolfpack staff with a Rugby League skills day. This tour has “Sown the seeds of Masters RL” in Canada and thanks go to all who volunteered, helped and sponsored the three teams involved. Hopefully Rugby League, Masters and all the other variants of Rugby League will be introduced and/or continue to grow in popularity in Toronto, Canada and North America.

On October 5, 2019, the Wolfpack were promoted to Super League for the first time in club history after their 24–6 victory over Featherstone Rovers in the 2019 Million Pound Game.

In November 2019, the Wolfpack made international headlines when they signed dual-code international Sonny Bill Williams on a two-year deal. The signing came in the wake of Williams' third appearance in a Rugby World Cup and saw him return to Rugby League, the sport where his career began.

In July 2020, Toronto Wolfpack withdrew from the 2020 Super League due to financial difficulties and new logistics needed for international travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.[29]

Stadium[edit]

Lamport Stadium based in the Liberty Village neighbourhood of Toronto.

The team's home stadium is Lamport Stadium in Toronto, which is known as The Den for Toronto matches. The stadium seats 9,600.[16] The stadium was opened in 1975 and has an artificial field. In addition to the two rugby codes, it has hosted soccer and lacrosse.[12] The team signed a three-year lease to play at the stadium.[30] The Toronto Wolfpack supporters group can be found in Section 35.

Lamport Stadium has been used by the team for nearly all their home games in Canada. However, during their 2018 season, the Wolfpack relocated one of their home games to Fletcher's Fields in Markham, as Lamport Stadium was undergoing field resurfacing work.[31] In addition to home games played in Greater Toronto Area, the team played a "home game" at New River Stadium in London for the 2018, and 2019 seasons. The Wolfpack played at these venues in an effort to boost the popularity of the team, and sport in London.[32][33]

In their debut Super League campaign in 2020, the Wolfpack hosted scheduled "home" games on the road at neutral venues, this was due to the weather conditions not being suitable in Canada for rugby league until April. Toronto played scheduled "home" games at: Headingley Stadium, Leeds as a double header with Leeds Rhinos; the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington; and Bootham Crescent, York as a double header with York City Knights. The York game was originally scheduled to be at the new York Community Stadium, as the grounds' inaugural game, however the stadium was not ready in time.

Logistics[edit]

As none of the players on the roster are from Toronto or Canada, the team stays at the George Brown College residence in West Don Lands that is the former site of the 2015 Pan American Games Athletes' Village and trains at Lamport Stadium. Away teams stay at York University residence[34] and train on York University athletic facilities. Through a sponsorship deal with Air Transat, the team covers the travel and accommodation cost for all of the away teams.[35] Toronto Wolfpack continued to cover expenses for the visiting teams in the 2018 season.[36]

Toronto signed an agreement with Brighouse Rangers to share their training ground for pre-seasons and while the Wolfpack are in the UK for away fixtures for 2017.[37] At the end of the 2017 season the Wolfpack confirmed their intention to switch to a base in Manchester, UK, during the 2018 season, and in 2018 announced the deepening of their partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University and its community.[38] Manchester now serves as the Wolfpack's home in the United Kingdom, with the club training at Hopwood Hall College.

Media & Promotion[edit]

Toronto Wolfpack games are broadcast on Canadian specialty channel GameTV, with further digital rights extended to CBC Sports with games streamed on the CBC Sports website. Matches are also archived on the Toronto Wolfpack YouTube Channel.

All Toronto Wolfpack games are broadcast live in the UK on Sky Sports - Arena which reaches 11 million homes across the Sky Network. In the USA Eleven Sports send broadcasts into 50 million homes.

In December 2019, Toronto Wolfpack signed Toronto-headquartered agency LP/AD as agency of record for the 2020 season to help promote the team's commercial activities during the inaugural Super League season.[39][40]

Kit sponsors and manufacturers[edit]

Year Kit Manufacturer Main Shirt Sponsor
2017–2018 Kappa Air Transat
2019 ISC
2020– BLK Rugby Strength

2020 Squad[edit]

2020 Toronto Wolfpack
First Team Squad Coaching staff

Head coach

Assistant coaches


Legend:
  • (c) Captain(s)
  • (vc) Vice captain(s)

Updated: 20 September 2020
Source(s): 2020 Squad Numbers

2020 Transfers[edit]

Gains[edit]

Player Club Contract Date
New Zealand Sonny Bill Williams Blues 2 years November 2019
Republic of Ireland Brad Singleton Leeds Rhinos 3 years November 2019
England James Cunningham London Broncos 2 years November 2019
France Tony Gigot Catalans Dragons Trial February 2020
England Jack Wells Wigan Warriors One Month Loan February 2020
England Ben Kilner Wigan Warriors One Month Loan February 2020
Canada Quinn Ngawati - N/A March 2020
England Kallum Watkins Gold Coast Titans 3 years May 2020

Losses[edit]

Player Club Contract Date
Fiji Ashton Sims Retired n/a August 2019
England Nick Rawsthorne Hull Kingston Rovers 2 years October 2019
Republic of Ireland Bob Beswick Newcastle Thunder 1 year October 2019
Scotland Ryan Brierley Hull Kingston Rovers 1 year December 2019
England Gary Wheeler Mutual consent n/a March 2020
England Andy Ackers Salford Red Devils 3 years June 2020

Staff[edit]

Coaching staff[edit]

Brian Noble was the club's inaugural Director of Rugby, holding the position from 2016 to 2020
Position Staff
Director of Rugby Vacant
Head coach England Brian McDermott
Assistant coach England Chris Plume
Assistant coach England Kurt Haggerty
Head of strength and conditioning England Jon Kelly

List of head coaches[edit]

Name From To P W D L Win %
England Paul Rowley 2017 2018 53 45 2 6 85%
England Brian McDermott 2018 present %

Club officials[edit]

Position Staff
Owner AustraliaDavid Argyle et al.
Chairman and CEO Canada Bob Hunter
UK General Manager England Martin Vickers
Vice-President, Commercial England Jon Pallett

Records[edit]

Individual[edit]

  • Most tries in a match:
  • 5:
Liam Kay v. Balmain colours.svg York City Knights (1 July 2017)
  • Most goals in a match:
  • 13:
Craig Hall v. Doncaster colours.svg Doncaster (9 April 2017)
  • Most points in a match:
  • 38:
Craig Hall v. Hemelcolours.png Hemel Stags (15 July 2017)
  • Most drop goals in a season:
  • 2 (2 players):
Ryan Brierley and Gareth O'Brien (2018 Championship)
  • Most goals in a season:
  • 170:
Craig Hall (2017 League 1)
  • Most tries in a season:
  • 27 (2 players):
Liam Kay (2017 League 1) and Matty Russell (2019 Championship)
  • Most points in a season:
  • 436:
Craig Hall (2017 League 1)

Team Records[edit]

  • Biggest win:
82–6 v. Doncaster colours.svg Doncaster (April 9, 2017)
  • Biggest loss:
66-10 v. Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves (May 13, 2018)

Attendance Records[edit]

  • Highest home attendance:
9,974 v. Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers (at Lamport Stadium, 5 October 2019)

Seasons[edit]

Season League Play-offs Challenge
Cup
Other competitions Name Tries Name Points
Division P W D L F A Dif Pts Pos Top try scorer Top point scorer
2017 League 1 22 20 1 1 1164 243 +921 41 1st Promoted as champions R5 Liam Kay 27 Craig Hall 436
2018 Championship 23 20 1 2 866 374 +492 41 1st Lost in Million Pound Game R6 Liam Kay 26 Ryan Brierley 214
2019 Championship 27 26 0 1 1010 356 +654 52 1st Won in Million Pound Game - Promoted Did not participate Matty Russell 27 Gareth O'Brien 278
2020 Super League Withdrew from competition; all results expunged.[a]

Honours[edit]

Season Champions (2): 2018, 2019
Playoff Champions (1): 2019
Season Champions (1): 2017

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ On 20 July 2020, Toronto Wolfpack withdrew from the 2020 Super League due to financial difficulties and new logistics needed for international travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The RFL announced there would be no relegation from the competition.[29]
  1. ^ While they have been described as the world's first trans-Atlantic professional sports team,[6][7][8] there are earlier examples of teams participating in trans-Atlantic competitions such as the World League of American Football,[9] and Super Rugby.[10][11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Toronto Wolfpack withdraws from Super League due to "overwhelming financial challenges" that caused their players to be unpaid for two months". 9 Wide World of Sports. July 20, 2020.
  2. ^ "Toronto Wolfpack: Meet the first transatlantic rugby league team". BBC Sport. February 24, 2017. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  3. ^ "Toronto Wolfpack cross the Atlantic for rugby league home opener". CBC Sports. May 7, 2016. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  4. ^ "New boys Toronto Wolfpack are in for the long term". Yorkshire Evening Post. December 21, 2016. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  5. ^ "Can Toronto's English rugby league club teach NFL to cross Atlantic?". ESPN. April 27, 2017. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  6. ^ "About the Team". Toronto Wolfpack. Archived from the original on March 13, 2017. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  7. ^ "Meet the Toronto Wolfpack, Canada's first professional rugby team". CBC. February 25, 2017. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  8. ^ "Trans-Atlantic rugby league trailblazers Toronto Wolfpack seek beauty in the Halifax beast". The Telegraph. February 24, 2017. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  9. ^ Stellino, Vito (April 7, 1991). "WLAF attendance surpassing early hopes in Europe and Canada". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  10. ^ "¡Bienvenidos a Super Rugby Jaguares" (Press release). SANZAR. December 17, 2015. Archived from the original on March 13, 2017. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  11. ^ "Jaguares start with historic win". SANZAAR. February 27, 2016. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Canadians seek to join League One in 2016". October 13, 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  13. ^ "Canadian team to join English rugby league setup". ESPN. April 24, 2016. Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  14. ^ Proszenko, Adrian (April 21, 2016). "Canadian team to play in UK next year as part of Super League bid". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  15. ^ "TORONTO ANNOUNCED AS HOME TO WORLD'S FIRST TRANSATLANTIC PROFESSIONAL SPORTS TEAM". Toronto Wolfpack. April 27, 2016. Archived from the original on May 2, 2016. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
  16. ^ a b c "Rugby Football League officials joined by Mayor John Tory to unveil team brand and league information". April 25, 2016. Archived from the original on April 26, 2016. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  17. ^ "New Toronto Wolfpack rugby league team won't divulge its ownership". Winnipeg Free Press. April 28, 2016. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  18. ^ Mohdin, Aamna (August 28, 2017). "The future of sport is this Canadian rugby league team that flies 3,500 miles to play in England". Quartz (publication). Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  19. ^ a b Dixon, Ryan. "Running with the Wolves". Sportsnet.
  20. ^ Bower, Aaron (May 7, 2015). "Toronto-based rugby league team in talks to join England's Rugby League 1". The Guardian. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  21. ^ "Canadians confident of being competitive in League One". October 16, 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  22. ^ "Barrie McDermott: Canadian team would boost Rugby League One". Sky Sports. May 6, 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  23. ^ "Tryouts". Toronto Wolfpack. January 8, 2017.
  24. ^ Toronto Wolfpack impress in pre-season loss to Hull FC
  25. ^ Toronto Wolfpack win Challenge Cup tie at Siddal in first-ever match
  26. ^ Wolfpack dominate in their first league match
  27. ^ Toronto Wolfpack win ill-tempered home debut
  28. ^ [1]
  29. ^ a b https://amp.theguardian.com/sport/2020/jul/20/toronto-wolfpack-exit-super-league-season-casting-doubt-on-clubs-future
  30. ^ Yuen, Jenny (April 27, 2016). "Toronto to be first transatlantic team in Rugby Football League". Toronto Sun. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
  31. ^ Blum, Benjamin (April 9, 2018). "Toronto Wolfpack relocate home opener north of the city". CBC Sports. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  32. ^ "Toronto Wolfpack return to capital". skolarsrl.com. London Skolars. February 15, 2019. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  33. ^ Davidson, Neil (April 5, 2019). "Toronto Wolfpack hosting 'home' game in London, looking to showcase transatlantic team". The Globe and Mail. The Woodbridge Company. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  34. ^ Davidson, Neil (July 9, 2017). "Toronto Wolfpack foes enjoying free trips to Canada, but rugby league journeys taking their toll". Toronto Star.
  35. ^ Davidson, Neil (May 6, 2017). "Toronto Wolfpack win ill-tempered home debut". The Canadian Press.
  36. ^ Campbell, Morgan (June 8, 2018). "Wolfpack have eyes on promotion to Super League as home season begins". Toronto Star.
  37. ^ Rangers welcome Wolfpack
  38. ^ "Aspiring rugby league talent nurtured by new Toronto Wolfpack player development system". .mmu.ac.uk. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  39. ^ Rittenhouse, Lindsay (December 6, 2019). "Wins of the Week". AdAge.
  40. ^ Dallaire, Justin (December 9, 2019). "Toronto Wolfpack selects LP/AD as AOR". StrategyOnline.

External links[edit]