Hunting Wolves: Toronto set for League One bow against London Skolars
On a muddy field just outside Halifax before a vociferous crowd, with the eyes of the country – and, they hoped, the world too – placed upon them, Toronto Wolfpack launched their brave Trans-Atlantic rugby league era last weekend.
And it wasn’t easy going. Amateur champions Siddal pushed them all the way, even leading deep into the second half but late tries ensured the all-star outfit came away with their first victory.
The Wolfpack hope to be playing in the Super League within five seasons, but they must first navigate the untrodden waters (and mud) of National League One.
Their pursuit of the title starts this weekend against London Skolars at New River Stadium, the first of five straight league games they will play in the UK before flying back to Toronto for fixtures at home.
This five-week block pattern will continue all season, with the Wolfpack covering the costs of travel for all European teams as part of its £1m investment into the rugby league project.
The man behind the investment is Eric Perez, born and raised in Toronto, who fell in love with rugby league over nine years ago and has made it his goal to see the game grow in his home country.I truly believe it’s a sport that speaks to the Canadian psyche”
On his side, he has one of the most recognisable faces in rugby league, Brian Noble, as director of rugby. Equally, his squad includes a glittering cast of experienced players such as Craig Hall, a super league veteran and Fuifui Moimoi, who has played internationally for New Zealand.
This weekend’s opponents, the London Skolars, finished bottom of last year’s League One Super 8s but have their sights set on bigger things this season.
Mark Croston, Director of Rugby, conceded that the Skolars have been looking forward to Saturday’s game since the fixture was announced, and given the London side’s emphasis on developing local talent they no doubt can appreciate Perez’s efforts.
Rugby league continues to play second fiddle to their cross-code counterparts in London. However, the Skolars and their city-mate Broncos in the Championship have carved out a group of diehard fans desperate to see the game grow in the country’s capital.
This weekend will offer the chance not just to see a Toronto team on the verge of taking off but a London team hoping to achieve a similar success itself.
Whatever the result on Saturday, excitement is guaranteed as rugby league’s international project gets underway for good.
A successful first season for the Wolfpack could open the floodgates not just for more rugby league sides – Perez himself envisages a Montreal team in the near future – but for other transatlantic sports partnerships, following hot on the heels of the success of the London NFL fixtures.
Make sure to tune in!