By Brian Lowe, Date: 4/3/17
By now you would no doubt be aware of a new Canadian-based franchise that is about to make a splash in English, and for that matter, international Rugby League.
The Toronto Wolfpack make their debut in the Kingstone Press League 1 competition this weekend (March 4) with a long-term goal of playing in the English Super League.
Yup, that’s right, they have set their sights on competing in the top tier of the game in the northern hemisphere.
While it is, of course, untested and while some purists might see it as being a little bold and brash, you know what, the Toronto franchise deserves kudos for having the cajones to set the bar high and take their shot.
As they quite unabashedly say themselves, they are Canada’s first professional rugby football team and the world’s first trans-Atlantic major professional sports team and you can’t knock them for having a dream and trying to realize it. After all, we’re always told that it’s good to have goals, right.
So, who’s going to pony up for all of it? Well, come on, it will cost a chunk of change you know.
Players need to be put on contract and of course there’s the coaching staff to think about too, led by head coach Paul Rowley. The team will need trainers, physios, nutritionists and a masseuse. Okay, maybe not the latter necessarily, but you get my drift.
On top of that, one of the biggest outgoings will be travel and accommodation, and even at discounted rates it adds up when you factor in all the personnel going back and forth across the Atlantic between Canada and the UK.
And oh by the way, the Wolfpack will also pay the roundtrip airfares of the UK-based clubs scheduled to play in Toronto.
Over the course of a season it will be a significant amount that will need to be budgeted for well in advance.
The Wolfpack have thought about that, and together with the Kingstone Press League 1 powers-that-be and the RFL, have figured out a schedule that will minimize the dollar damage.
They will play games in blocks of four or five. Their first five games of the season will all be played in the UK, starting with Round 1 at White Hart Lane against the London Skolars through their Round 5 match against North Wales Crusaders at Queensway in Wrexham.
Then, finally, they get to play their first home game at Lamport Stadium, or The Den, as it’s affectionately known in Toronto when they square off against Oxford.
It has a seating capacity of around 8,000 and gets packed out whenever the Canadian national team the Wolverines play Test matches there, so one could reasonably assume that the Wolfpack will be able to draw similar crowds, particularly as they will be the regular home team.
The last half of the season, 11 matches, will all be home games. If they make the playoffs, which is on their to-do list, that will be a whole nuther ball of wax that they’ll figure out later.
To try to recoup some of their costs, the Wolfpack are offering season passes and corporate packages that won’t break the bank.
It’s not a cheap proposition, so getting back to the question of who is going to foot the bill, the answer is for the most part it will be Australian mining investor David Argyle.
One other thing in their favor is the signing of Tonga international and former Parramatta Eels NRL star player Fuifui Moimoi. If you follow Rugby League you will know who that guy is and you will also know the Wolfpack are serious.
Yes, it is a bold venture and yes, the logistics of making it work are a little out of the ordinary, but good for the Wolfpack for thinking out of the box and for bringing the greatest game of all to Canada on an ongoing and regular basis.