With the Million Pound game two days away, Stephen Owen gives us the insight into rugby championship life in Toronto.
Day two at Toronto and it appears weve brought the British weather with us! The Torontonians inform us that the temperature was in the mid-to-late 20s on Monday and the sun has been shining, but its been rainy and cold today. That hasnt dampened the mood across the Wolfpack camp.
We went to see the Toronto squad train along with the Wolfpack appeared to say the very least. It was officially confirmed which the winner of Saturdays game is guaranteed a spot in Super League for the 2020 period – that has no doubt contributed to everybody.
The travel to Lamport Stadium from town centre is a straightforward one – with this being such a significant city nowhere is tough to reach, whether thats in a cab or on public transportation.
The Wolfpack were practising drop goal sets which shows theyre anticipating Saturdays match against Featherstone to become tight – and of course their star full-back Gareth OBrien has history with shed goals from the Million Pound Game – who would forget his amazing one-pointer to save Salford from relegation at 2016!
There appears to be a togetherness among the Wolfpack players, so spending much time at the company of each other appears like it brought a great team spirit.
Toronto is a city and the players seem to go around on bikes or the tram network that is local. Prop forward Ashton Sims is just one of many players who enjoy the lifestyle so theyve decided to live permanently in the city.
Speaking to members of staff in the club before today, theyre expecting to post thehouse full signs on Saturday with the other album crowd heading into the Lamport Stadium. Its easy to see they have displayed some of those gameday posters theyve made to promote previous matches and why so many fans flock to the floor, I take a look in the remarkable club shop just. The staff are affable and exuberant – qualities for a organisation trying to make their way at a crowded sports market.
The fans who arrive at the match have been treated to that which rugby team veteran Jon Wilkin explained asthe best pound for pound matchday experience hes ever encounter. When you consider that Wilkin has performed in the elite level in France England, Australia and New Zealand – thats a compliment.
Additionally, I learned that one of the folks who tried that matchday experience the previous time the Wolfpack played at Lamport, was Rugby League World Cup winner Valentine Holmes. The prior Queensland flier resides in North America as hes a part of the NFLs New York Jets practice squad.
I wonder whether his NFL ambitions do not come to fruition, is he someone who might possibly opt to return to Rugby League while living in North America? He also won an NRL Grand Final in 2016 with Cronulla together with the Wolfpack centre Ricky Leutele, and when I said this to Toronto Director of Rugby Brian Noble, he declared the way North Americans enjoy big names to advertise their franchises; and Holmes would surely fit this bill, so who knows?!
Holmes wont be at Saturdays Million Pound Game as hes back in New York with the Jets – but is that the Mayor of Toronto Tory. This is huge news. A significant figure around the city, this is a very clear indication of the Wolfpack have come to the attention of their most important city in North America.
Political support is something which could be essential in bringing a resolution to thePackages position regarding their home floor of Lamport Stadium. This isnt the priciest of dwelling venues, but it is in a great suburb of Toronto called Liberty Village – along with the scene for nearly all the season lends itself well to what the Wolfpack need.
But over here it could be snowing all the way into April, and for a stadium that does not possess underground heating or a roof to shield from the snow that is problematic thinking about the rugby league season begins only a couple of weeks into the calendar year.
As weve seen this year, the Wolfpack have playedhome games in England as double headers which is not ideal. Looking around town there does not appear to be solutions, apart from perhaps the Rogers Centre – home to the Toronto Blue Jays. This scene has a capacity of over 50,000 has a retractable roof but and will come at a cost that is significant – therefore this option may not be achievable yet.
Maybehome games in warmer North American towns could possibly be a little more realistic in the not too distant future, but that is maybe a conversation for another day. 1 thing is for certain, Lamport Stadium is going to be the place to be on Saturday!
The Featherstone Rovers staff landed in Toronto as well as they finalise preparations in their bidding for Super League football in 2020. Well be visiting their training tomorrow to find the latest from theFlat Cappers as they want to receive one triumph in what has been a finish from Yorkshire.