Toronto Wolfpack

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Toronto Wolfpack
Toronto Wolfpack RLFC logo.svg
Full nameToronto Wolfpack Rugby League Football Club
Nickname(s)Wolfpack
The Pack
Emblem(s)New Zealand Kiwis colours.svg
Founded2016
LocationToronto, Ontario, Canada
Ground(s)Lamport Stadium (Capacity: 9,600)
Coach(es)Matt Wyles
League(s)North American Rugby League

The Toronto Wolfpack is a Canadian professional rugby league club based in Toronto, Ontario, who compete in the North American Rugby League.

The club originally competed in the British rugby league system but withdrew in 2020 Super League season due to "overwhelming financial challenges" caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.[1]

The club was 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 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.

2017–2020: Seasons in the British leagues[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.

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.

2020-present: Expulsion and revival[edit]

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 in the United Kingdom.[29]

The club was given a chance to resubmit a bid for a place in the 2021 Super League season but the bid for readmission was rejected on 2 November 2020 resulting in the team's removal from the league. Subsequently, the Wolfpack made an announcement that they would cease operations.[30][31][32] Following the vote, a consortium of potential new owners led by Carlo LiViolsi backed out of a deal to purchase the Wolfpack from financially struggling owner David Argyle. Consequently, it was announced in November 2020 that the team would cease operations.[33]

On 31 March 2021, it was announced that a private investor group had purchased the Wolfpack and that they would be resuming play in the newly formed North American Rugby League.[34]

Stadium[edit]

Lamport Stadium based in the Liberty Village neighbourhood of Toronto.

The team's home stadium is Lamport Stadium in Toronto and known as The Den for Wolfpack 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.[35] 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.[36] The team explored options to improve the home stadium, including holding preliminary discussions about moving their home games to BMO Field, renovating Lamport Stadium or building a new stadium.[37]

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.[38][39] Additionally, in their debut Super League campaign in 2020 the Wolfpack hosted scheduled "home" games on the road at neutral venues, due to the weather conditions not being suitable in Eastern 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[40] 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.[41] Toronto Wolfpack continued to cover expenses for the visiting teams in the 2018 season.[42]

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.[43] 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.[44] Until 2020, Manchester served as the Wolfpack's home in the United Kingdom, with the club training at Hopwood Hall College.

Media and promotion[edit]

Toronto Wolfpack games were 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 were 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.[45][46]

Kit sponsors and manufacturers[edit]

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

Players[edit]

Staff[edit]

Coaching staff[edit]

Brian Noble was the club's inaugural Director of Rugby, holding the position from 2016 to 2020
Position Staff
Head coach Canada Matt Wyles[47]

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 2020 29 28 0 1 97%
Canada Matt Wyles 2021 Present 1 1 0 0 100%

Club officials[edit]

Position Staff
Owner Team Wolfpack

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 United Kingdom Challenge Cup / Canada Canada Cup Name Tries Name Points
Division P W D L F A Dif Pts Pos Top try scorer Top point scorer
Entry to United Kingdom British rugby league system
2017 League 1 22 20 1 1 1164 243 +921 41 1st None[a] 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 Did not participate Matty Russell 27 Gareth O'Brien 278
2020 Super League Withdrew from competition; all results expunged.[b] R6 Three players[c] 2 Gareth O'Brien 18
Transfer to United StatesCanada North American Rugby League
2021 NARL Eastern Conference League abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic W Blake Mahovic 2 Nathan Roberts 8
2022 NARL Eastern Conference 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 TBA TBA No Cup Competition TBA TBA TBA TBA

Honours[edit]

United Kingdom RFL
Winners (2): 2018, 2019
Million Pound Game
Winners (1): 2019
Runners-up (1): 2018
Championship Leaders' Shield
Winners (2): 2018, 2019
Winners (1): 2017
United StatesCanada NARL
Winners (1): 2021[48]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Teams do not enter League 1 playoffs if champions
  2. ^ 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]
  3. ^ Matty Russell, Ricky Leutele, and Gary Wheeler
  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 "Toronto Wolfpack pull out of Super League season as relegation is cancelled | Toronto Wolfpack | the Guardian".
  30. ^ "Toronto Wolfpack Thank Fans for Incredible Journey". Toronto Wolfpack. November 24, 2020. Retrieved February 12, 2021.
  31. ^ "Toronto Wolfpack fail in bid for re-admission to Super League". Sky Sports. November 3, 2020.
  32. ^ "Initial Toronto bid "disappointing" says Elstone as Wolfpack given more time to convince Super League". Love Rugby League. September 25, 2020.
  33. ^ Wood, Mike Meehall. "We Need To Stop Talking About Toronto Wolfpack". Forbes. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  34. ^ "PACK IS BACK". Toronto Wolfpack RLFC. March 31, 2021. Retrieved March 31, 2021.
  35. ^ Yuen, Jenny (April 27, 2016). "Toronto to be first transatlantic team in Rugby Football League". Toronto Sun. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
  36. ^ Blum, Benjamin (April 9, 2018). "Toronto Wolfpack relocate home opener north of the city". CBC Sports. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  37. ^ Davidson, Neil (May 1, 2017). "Toronto Wolfpack cross the Atlantic for rugby league home opener this weekend". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  38. ^ "Toronto Wolfpack return to capital". skolarsrl.com. London Skolars. February 15, 2019. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^ Davidson, Neil (July 9, 2017). "Toronto Wolfpack foes enjoying free trips to Canada, but rugby league journeys taking their toll". Toronto Star.
  41. ^ Davidson, Neil (May 6, 2017). "Toronto Wolfpack win ill-tempered home debut". The Canadian Press.
  42. ^ Campbell, Morgan (June 8, 2018). "Wolfpack have eyes on promotion to Super League as home season begins". Toronto Star.
  43. ^ Rangers welcome Wolfpack
  44. ^ "Aspiring rugby league talent nurtured by new Toronto Wolfpack player development system". .mmu.ac.uk. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  45. ^ Rittenhouse, Lindsay (December 6, 2019). "Wins of the Week". AdAge.
  46. ^ Dallaire, Justin (December 9, 2019). "Toronto Wolfpack selects LP/AD as AOR". StrategyOnline.
  47. ^ Last Word On Sports
  48. ^ "Canada Cup 2021: Toronto Wolfpack 42 – DC Cavalry 6". September 23, 2021.

External links[edit]