Bonus

The story of sport’s first Trans-Atlantic team

The story

On 22 January 2017, the Toronto Wolfpack played their first-ever match as a professional rugby league club. They were narrowly beaten by Super League’s Hull FC, but the performance laid the platform for a thrilling climb up the league hierarchy in the years that followed.

Toronto became sport’s first Trans-Atlantic team when they entered the European rugby league structure, taking their place alongside clubs from England, Wales, and France. Their admission into the league was met with a mixed reaction, with many doubting the feasibility of the concept.

In this article, we will examine how the Wolfpack proved the doubters wrong and completed their rise to the sport’s top-level in just three short years.

Debut season

Playing home games out of Toronto’s Lamport Stadium, the Wolfpack enjoyed a dominant debut campaign in League 1, finishing top of the table and winning all 15 of their league games. The Wolfpack were particularly powerful at home, scoring at least 50 points in every game played in their home city.

The team was beaten by York in the end-of-season Super 8s series and were held to a draw away at Keighley, but the dropped points counted for little as the new club marched on to the Championship.

Into the Championship

Another round of recruitment ahead of the 2018 season equipped the Wolfpack for the challenges ahead, and another dominant campaign followed as they chased their dream of reaching Super League in just two years.

Toronto once again finished top of the league, losing just two games and drawing once, but they were denied promotion to Super League after losing in the play-off final to London. The narrow defeat in the fixture saw the Canadian club’s hopes put on ice for at least one more year.

More new signings arrived as the Wolfpack prepared for only their third season as a professional club and once again the club finished top of the pile in 2019, this time winning 26 of their 27 matches and losing just once.

This time they’d face Featherstone in the promotion decider, and they produced a performance of real class to see off the challenge and cement their place in Super League – just three years after their first-ever match.

At the top table

Toronto was now ready to mix it up with the sport’s big boys and their signing of Sonny Bill Williams ahead of their first season in Super League served as a signal of their intent. The dual-code superstar became one of the sport’s highest-paid players when he put pen to paper.

Under the guidance of former Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott, and boasting a squad brimming with world-class talent, the Wolfpack will now set their sights on challenging for trophies, although they remain outsiders in the Super League betting markets.

But their legacy is already paying dividends, with a club based in Ottawa approved to join League 1 in 2021, and a bid from a franchise based in New York also hopeful of following in the Wolfpack’s footsteps.

Wherever your allegiances lie, it’s impossible to ignore the progress made by the ambitious Canadian club, who proved all the doubters wrong in taking their place at European rugby league’s top table in just three short years.

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