New Zealand's centre Sonny Bill Williams takes part in a training session at the Arcs Urayasu Park in Urayasu on October 4, 2019, during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup. (Photo by William WEST / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

It was a generally quiet afternoon in northern England last Sunday. Brexit had finally been announced, the royals had reached a settlement. All was well in their quiet, northern lives.

But one city did not fit this description. Emerald Headingly stadium in Leeds was being flooded with fans who were about to witness Rugby League history being made before their eyes. This history, was the first time a team from outside of Europe or Australia would play top-flight professional rugby league.

The opposition: Castleford Tigers, fondly referred to by the name ‘Cas’ by their large and devoted supporter base. Having finished 3rd and 5th in 2018 and 2019 respectively, getting a result against Cas is regarded as no mean feat in the world of the Super League.
With former NRL players Jordan Rankin, Cheyse Blair and Sosaia Feki on their roster, the Tigers have one of the stronger backlines in the competition, and are tipped to do well once again this season.

But all eyes were on the Torontonians leading into the game. SBW was back, the 10 million dollar man. The highest paid player of all time in either code was about to take the field and set the Super League alight.

But perhaps that expectation was unrealistic from the start.

The Wolfpack actually hit the front on one of their first attacks, with centre Hakim Miloudi putting in a perfectly weighted kick for winger Liam Kay to chase through and put down. Almost poetically, the Wolfpack’s first ever signing scoring their first ever points in Super League.

But from that point onwards, it was clear that Toronto had the wrong approach to the game. Trying to offload on every play, they acted like every tackle was their last. This attempt to cross the line on every play using razzle-dazzle tactics cost them their lead, with Castleford picking up a loose ball after a couple of offloads that were never on to score their first try under the sticks.

Toronto then capitulated for the next 30 minutes. Castleford streaked out to a 22-4 lead by half time, and could have scored more if not for a couple of instances of last ditch defending by Toronto on their goal-line.

The Wolfpack looked out of their depth, and entirely off the pace set by a side who’s just spent their 10th straight season in the top flight of English rugby league. Even the introduction of SBW to the game didn’t change the momentum, with the veteran seemingly getting lost in the fray upon his return to the 13-man code.

But in the second half, the Wolfpack came out of the sheds an entirely different team. For the next 40 minutes they matched it with one of the best sides in the division, with the second half ending 6-all. In fact, the Wolfpack were unlucky not to win the second half, with forward Adam Sidlow coming within millimetres of scoring after crossing the Castleford line.

Despite this second-half effort, the internet didn’t hesitate to get on the Wolfpack’s backs, labelling their performance as ‘disappointing’ considering the build-up to the game. But the Wolfpack simply played like a team that let the occasion get to them, with their game littered by handling errors and other negative meterage plays.

Taking these elements out however, and you’ve got a team who did themselves proud on their Super League debut. This is an area of their game that will develop as the season goes on, as will the impact of the evergreen Sonny Bill Williams. Under the guidance of English master-coach Brian McDermott, the Wolfpack can rest assured that their results will improve.

The only condition of failure this year for the Wolfpack would be relegation. Aside from that, establishing themselves as a mainstay Super League team over the next 10 or 20 years is the main goal.

If you’re expecting the Wolfpack to win the Super League this season, you’ve got the wrong idea about this team. The Wolfpack aren’t a team about short-term success, they’re a team about the long term development of the sport in the Northern Hemisphere. Get behind them in a good way, because the future of our sport lies with their example. Are you on board with the future of Rugby League

9 COMMENTS

  1. Good Article,

    The importance of Toronto to the game of Rugby League cannot be understated. They are breaking new ground in a way that could revolutionise our sport. Every Rugby League fan in the world ought to get behind them and support because if they gain real success in Canada – everything will change.

  2. Maybe they could take the French Dressed Chickens over there to play out of Montreal?
    They love France , so Montreal would make a good fit for them.
    They wouldn’t have any juniors. So it would be just the same as them playing out of the eastern suburbs.

  3. And what about the fan base they are trying to build in Toronto ?

    A number of their home games have to be played in the UK as it is so playing in Montreal would be another hardship for newly converted fan base.

  4. EastOfDivide
    February 4, 2020 at 10:20 am
    “Maybe they could take the French Dressed Chickens over there to play out of Montreal?”
    Good point but the french want them to maintain their French presence in the NRL.
    I believe that was the deal when they copied their colors and the petrified Coq as their logo.

  5. I love how much we get under the skin of you couple of delusional souths supporters that you have to constantly talk about us.
    Its a victory for us every time. Keep it up!!

  6. Uncle Nicks Wally
    February 4, 2020 at 1:16 pm
    “I love how much we get under the skin of you couple of delusional souths supporters that you have to constantly talk about us.
    Its a victory for us every time. Keep it up!”

    Whata you know?
    A sombrero with a sense of humor.
    I’ll pay that one Wally.
    Any updates on Latrell?🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

  7. TwentyOne February 4, 2020 at 2:58 pm
    “Whata you know?
    A sombrero with a sense of humor.
    I’ll pay that one Wally.
    Any updates on Latrell?🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣”

    Don’t suppose you have any on Two-Time Keary do you? Or are you guys unfamiliar with the little five-eighth Russel shoved out the door?

  8. TwentyOne February 4, 2020 at 11:44 pm
    “Are you referring to Two-Time concussions and One-More and gonski?”

    Oh well then, if you put it that way… I guess it’s glory glory pride of the league because your players don’t get concussed as much as ours. You’re right. If i was a souths fan I’d be thinking “Yes, we’ve won one premiership in 48 years… Yes, They’ve won 3 in 7 and gone back-to-back… but maybe their 5/8th will get concussed one more time and be gone! Yeahhh, that’ll show em!”
    Grow up mate 😂

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