It was early Monday morning in Australia when the news broke from Canada. The seemingly unstoppable Toronto Wolfpack had failed to beat the London Broncos, despite being heavily tipped as favourites, and finishing eight points above them in the regular season.
Despite having seen the Broncos off 34-22 when the sides met in the Super League qualifiers only a matter of weeks ago, both sides were unable to find a four-pointer, despite Toronto having crossed the line four times.
The result of the game comes as a shock to rugby league fans across the globe, who expected a steady rise into Super League for the Wolfpack. The interruption of failing to beat London in the million pound game certainly wasn’t according to script.
But don’t lose hope on the trans-Atlantic venture just yet.
After they had effectively run away with the League 1 title in the 2017 season, Wolfpack General Commercial Manager Scott Lidbury was quick to play down the hype of them repeating this feat in the Championship.
“It is a five year plan to get to the Super League,” he said.
“We are in year two of that plan, we are in the Championship and things are on the right trajectory. Promotion this year is obviously the goal. We would be disappointed if we did not finish in the top four.”
Not only did the Wolfpack finish four wins clear of their nearest rivals in the regular season, but when the final matchday of the Super League qualifiers had come and gone, it was only points differential that kept them from automatic promotion to the Super League.
That’s a lot more impressive than a mere top-4 spot. The Wolfpack are going to be entering their second season in the Betfred Championship after a stellar first campaign, and will be one of the best poised Championship clubs of all time to earn promotion to the Super League.
Furthermore, the Super League qualifying tournament being scrapped as of next year and the change to a one-up, one-down system will look favourably upon the Wolfpack. All they have to do is repeat their feats of this season in order to earn automatic promotion to England’s top tier.
To help matters is the inbound former Cronulla Sharks centre Ricky Leutele. The 28 year-old is definitely of first-grade NRL standard, and won the premiership only two years ago. That kind of experience will be game changing coming up against the likes of the Swinton Lions and the Batley Bulldogs.
They’ve still got space left in the cap too. With the sackings of former NRL stars Fuifui Moimoi and Dave Taylor before the season started, the Wolfpack may be able to recruit a familiar face or two from our side of the globe. For a championship team, they could end up boasting an incredible side.
That’s all adding to a side that already boasts the likes of Josh McCrone, Darcy Lussick and former Wests Tigers prop Jack Buchanan. Not to mention local heroes such as Gareth O’Brien and Mason Caton-Brown.
All things considered, it looks like the Wolfpack are set to improve on what’s already been a stellar year. It looks like they’ll be up in the Super League sooner rather than later through the new promotion system.
So don’t jump off the Wolfpack bandwagon as a result of one bad game. The Wolfpack are still a team very much in it’s embryonic stages, and it’d be a lie to say that they aren’t on track. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be sooner than you think that you’ll see your NRL club over playing a World Club Challenge in Toronto. Unless of course, you support Parramatta.