The 2020 season is almost upon us and we see the return of the Redvee season previews. But instead of Saints fans giving their view on every team, we’ve asked fans of each opposition club to give us the inside view on their club and their thoughts on the season ahead.
So where better to start than the new kids on the block, the 24th team to play in Super League – Toronto Wolfpack. Whether you love or loathe expansion, they’ll be kicking off their Super League adventure against Castleford Tigers at Headingley in early February. So we contacted some Wolfpack fans and got the low down on their newly promoted side.
Our thanks to (Sintelliner!) Jonathan Duncan, The Wolfpack Pack, Sher & Lil and Nicholas Mew for their time and answers.
First of all tell us a little about yourself…
JD: Me well I was brought up in St. Helens and started to go regularly in the 1984 season (the Meninga year) I was part of the Under 11 town team and we got free tickets in stand D at Knowsley Road. From their I spent a few seasons on the Popular Side and then migrated to the Scaff with my good pal Dom McCormack and we have travelled to many games over many years. So I’ve seen the lows and the highs in my time. I moved to Canada in 2010 and live about an hour north of Toronto in a place called Barrie. I continued to listen to Wish FM for Saints games and anytime I came home I would go. When I first heard about the Wolfpack in 2017 being formed, I was extremely sceptical, and I didn’t attend a game in the first year. I did watch a few games on the TV over here and was mildly interested. Then when they secured promotion to the Championship I became intrigued. I attended my first game against Dewsbury I think and I became hooked. Why did I become hooked? Lots of reasons first being the family friendly place it is. I have young kids and when I attended the first game my eldest was involved in holding the flag before the game and again at an event at halftime. She never wants to miss a game now. The Wolfpack see the day as an event it’s not just the game. It is geared around the family. The beer garden is a big hit. You have 10 different local craft breweries to choose from and there is not a Budweiser in sight! The beer garden opens up about an hour before kick off and for a few hours after. Often the players will mingle with the fans after the game. The players after the game sign autographs for the kids. It’s a great day! Away fans who come cannot speak highly enough about the game day experience. Typically the weather always helps. The summer we are often watching in 80 degree weather. I haven’t seen an away game yet, however I am flying over next month for the game at Saracens.
TWP: So we are a group of guys who decided since we loved union might as well head out to a pro game when we got a chance. None of us had heard of Super League let alone the Kingston Press League One and a few of us knew about NRL but not much. We dressed up in fancy dress as a joke and it really took off. We have been season ticket holders since day one and have not missed a game. Currently working out a potential trip to the UK but we shall see what happens. Scott (Tiny Wolf) has answered these but the Twitter account is run by a group of guys who follow the Pack.
S&L: We are Sher and Lil, two fun and energetic friends who discovered and immediately fell in love with the sport of rugby league when the Toronto Wolfpack came to town in 2017. We enjoy the sport so much that we’ve taken it upon ourselves to produce videos to help promote the sport worldwide, as well as our own team. We’ve got a strong following on all social media platforms, so we like to think we are doing our part to spread the word! We have been season ticket holders since the inaugural season, but have not yet had the opportunity to travel to the UK to attend an away game. We are really hoping to soon, not only to see the Wolfpack play away but to experience the culture of rugby league and learn more about its origins. Fingers crossed!
NM: Nicholas Mew, 51-year-old elementary school teacher, living in Barrie, Ontario, which is about an hour’s drive (105 km) north of Toronto.
My first ever live game of rugby league was July 9th, 2017, when Toronto hosted the Gloucestershire All Golds, and I was there with my family through the gift of four tickets by a wonderful gentleman who has since become a great friend. I’d watched a few highlights and snippets of games online, but the in-person experience was like no other sports event I’d ever been to in Canada. At the end of the match the players came around the edge of the stands and spoke to every fan who wanted to chat, took pictures, signed autographs, shook hands, and actually thanked US for coming to the game! All sports are family friendly over here, but this took it up a notch. We were hooked. For the rest of that season we tried to fit in as many games as we could, including the playoffs, and each game was more enjoyable than the last. Not just the on-field result, but the wonderful welcome the other fans and the team themselves put out.
We decided that my youngest son Alexander and I would buy season tickets for 2018, and we continued that for 2019 as well. (And for next year too, obviously.) He even became a ball-runner for the team, and he’s on the sidelines working every home game. I even took up playing the game, as we welcomed a visiting rugby league master’s team in June, the South London Silverbacks, and they played the brand-new teams we assembled just for that purpose. Since then we have had new people come out, and we have hopes for even more growth.
In the summer of 2019 we went on a family holiday to the UK, the first time my boys had ever been, which involved Alexander being guest ball-runner at Halifax (vs Widnes) thanks to an incredibly generous offer from a life-long Fax supporter whose son is a regular ball-runner there. We went to see our first Super League match in person (Wakefield hosting Castleford), I was afforded the wonderful opportunity to play in the Eastmoor Dragons masters rugby league festival, and we were able to see Toronto raise the silverware in person at Widnes. Again, it wasn’t just the sport itself that made it so marvellous, it was the people at all levels. So generous, so welcoming, and so encouraging. Wanting to share this sport with newcomers like us. And we want to support not just our team, but the sport itself, at all levels. Martin Crick of the RLEF came over to run coach certification courses in September, and around 20 of us took that opportunity. Now hopefully we can do something with it!
Alexander and I will be back to the UK again this summer to watch the Challenge Cup final in person, and then go to the London 9s tournament the next day. Sadly we’ll miss the Hull FC vs Toronto match due to another commitment, but we are very excited about going to Leigh Sports Village when the Centurions host Whitehaven.
Welcome to Super League! After the disappointment of losing the Million Pound Game to London in 2018, can you sum up last season from a Toronto fans perspective?
JD: The was no-one more gutted than me when they didn’t get promotion in 2018. I’d dreamt about the Wolfpack playing Saints and to have that dream shattered was hard to take. However 12 months on I think it was a blessing. Paul Rowley did great getting the team set up but his style of play was terrible and a change was needed. In getting Brian Mac the whole set up in terms of professionalism went up 100%. The mentality and style of rugby improved dramatically. Bringing in players like Jon Wilkin also helped this. The problem with the Championship is that many of the games are not super competitive and that became a worry for me. What happens if we have another loss in the MPG? Thankfully it didn’t happen last year although Featherstone did make it tough. The pressure was there for sure but with the new regime they got through it.
TWP: 2018 was certainly a disappointment but honestly it was a blessing. It allowed the team to find their form and allowed our front office and gameday operations team to build on and off the field. There was not much pressure on the team as they were simply better than most. Teams like Fev and Toulouse always were dangerous in one offs but 9/10 times we would best them. The loss to Toulouse on the road was a real wake up call and we knew the lads would push through. Disappointment wise it was seeing some of the original players struggle to find the field. They were great in the community and it was tough to see them frustrated.
S&L: We are very excited to be in Super League! While it was definitely disappointing to lose the MPG to the Broncos in 2018, we like to think of it is a blessing in disguise. With our new coach Brian McDermott came a new team mindset: make a game plan and execute it, no matter the opponent or circumstance. 2019 saw a more grounded and disciplined team. We believe we would not have been as prepared as needed going into Super League if we had been promoted then.
NM: This might come as a surprise, but I didn’t find losing the Million Pound Game in 2018 the disappointment that some people might think. I felt absolutely terrible for the players in that game, especially Rich Whiting, who looked devastated, and Nick Rawsthorne, who was heartbroken, but I didn’t feel the team was ready to be promoted for a variety of reasons. An additional year in the Championship was for the best. And London deserved the victory.
With that in mind, we were quietly confident of a good season in 2019, but knew not to take anything for granted. A wake-up call at Toulouse reminded us of that, and we certainly didn’t take Fev lightly in the final. The win was more of a relief than anything. I couldn’t eat or drink all day out of anxiety.
I wouldn’t say there were any surprises or disappointments on the field, but there were certainly a few games that proved incredibly entertaining. The comeback at Bradford. Just barely pipping Widnes at Halton Stadium. Every match against Fev being a struggle. Welcoming the passionate Swinton supporters back again. Meeting up with our friends from Leigh. It was, however, disheartening at times following all the off-field news around the team, and how that was interpreted by some who are, shall we say, a little less supportive of the team’s inclusion in the UK rugby league structure. I spend a fair bit of time chatting on social media, and it seems that I’m always repeating myself trying to dispel misconceptions, as tactfully as possible, with mixed results.
The Saints are heading over to Toronto in May, what can we expect from your city? What is the Lamport Stadium like? Is it in a good location with places to eat and drink around the ground? Good transport links?
JD: Lamport Stadium, to put it mildly, isn’t great – it’s old and rackety and makes the old Knowsley Road look impressive (although you don’t piss against a wall when you use the toilets). However it does it’s very best to accommodate everyone. Normally the away fans sit in the East stand in the middle. It’s an all seater (concrete) and not very comfy. The Wolfpack equivalent to the scaff also sit on that side in Section 35. I normally sit in the West stand and can never hear them. They try but there is only about 30 of them. Most visiting fans will I’m sure be staying in downtown Toronto and they will need to get the 504 Street Car (like a Blackpool Tram) on King Street to get to the stadium. It cost about $5 each way. It’s the best way to get there as it can be busy downtown. It takes about 20 minutes. There are a few bars around the area and everyone is welcomed. Like I said before the beer garden opens up about an hour before the game and it’s token only. You are able to buy tokens outside the ground as well as inside. The tokens are about $9 each (6 quid) which I guess is a bit more than a pint in the Gerard but it’s good for stadium prices in Toronto. If you go to a baseball or Basketball game it’s around $14. Food inside the stadium is nothing to write home about although there is talk of changing that this year. Home fans are super friendly and it’s a mix. Lots of families, lots of ex-Pats supporting their UK rugby shirts and Torontonians. I’d say a third of the crowd are there for the event and don’t really care fully about the game. Which can be a tad annoying when watching the game. There are no shouts of “gettem on side” or “knock his head off” it’s quite mild mannered and I do get the occasional look from the crowd when I stand up and disagree with a decision.
TWP: Toronto is a great metro city and honestly lots to do. It is the most multicultural city in the world and is certainly not a small city. Lamport is an older venue that sits in a real hip part of the city. It’s certainly not fancy and needs some work but the pack are currently looking to get control over the facility to make some significant investments. The area is called liberty village and it is a great spot. We frequent a bar called local but there dozens of places to grab a drink or a bite to eat. The official bar for the pack has not been announced yet but the pack will host a Thursday night get together for the away fans. Depending on where you are staying you can either take the go train from union station to exhibition. You can also take the street car from downtown or just take an uber!
S&L: Toronto is Canada’s largest city. Its multicultural population allows for a truly multicultural experience when visiting the city. There are different neighbourhoods in the city that reflect different cultures, such as Chinatown and Little Malta. Foodies will delight in a variety of cuisines. For shoppers, stores abound with vintage finds, luxury items, and top home decor. Sports fans can attend many professional sporting events in the spring/summer, including a Toronto Blue Jays MLB baseball game, a TFC MLS soccer game, a Toronto Argos CFL football game, and a Toronto Arrows MLR rugby union game. Lovers of the arts will enjoy art galleries, special exhibitions, theatre, festivals, and concerts. Of course, there are popular attractions that are on everyone’s list of must-sees: the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, and the Royal Ontario Museum, to name a few. Transportation is top notch in the city. Streetcar, Go Train, subway, taxi, and Uber are all available and easy to use. Not to mention that the city is very walkable. There is also a direct train to Niagara Falls from the city if you’re so inclined to visit, which we would recommend if you have the time. The average temperature in May in Toronto is 17 degrees, but it is usually on the warmer side, so you may want to pack a pair of shorts or two along with those long pants! As for Lamport Stadium, away fans are in for a real treat! It’s a very intimate venue that is always packed and buzzing. You will be warmly welcomed by the Wolfpack faithful and feed off their energy during the game, the halftime show, and afterwards in our famous beer garden. Lamport Stadium is located in Liberty Village, a young, chic neighbourhood in the city’s west end. There you will find a variety of bars and restaurants to suit every taste.
NM: Keep in mind, I’m not from Toronto. We make a whole day of each match, and our journey down starts about three hours before kickoff. Why? Because we like to enjoy the area around Lamport Stadium, meeting up with friends, going out for a meal and a drink at one of the many excellent places to eat nearby. There’s too many to mention by name, and you will be spoilt for choice. We usually drive down, but many fans come in on the commuter “GO train”, or simply ride the streetcar (you call them trams) along King Street that come by every three or four minutes. These also make excellent targets for kicks at the north end of the stadium, and you will hear the chant “Hit the streetcar” when a player lines up for the conversion. It’s very easy to get to, yet from the outside you almost wouldn’t notice it at all.
As an aside, the stadium is just called Lamport Stadium, or Lamport. As soon as you call it “The Lamport Stadium” we know you’ve been listening to the UK TV announcers who have never been over here. It would be akin to us saying “The Anfield”. Lamport was built in the mid ‘70s, on the site of a former women’s prison, and is the height of Soviet concrete architecture of that era. Seriously, there’s not a bad view in the house, although there’s no shelter of any kind. It’s general seating, and if you don’t like where you are, feel free to move someplace else. Getting food, drinks, and going to the washroom (toilets) will all involve getting out of your seat, which is why you always see so many people moving around during a game. Canadians also have a tendency to arrive late to all sports over here. And the national anthem of both teams is always sung, in every sport, at every level from kids to pros, before games. Just roll with it.
I’d like to also point out that many people come to games from much further away than we do. My retired friend Gerry, in his 70s, drives an hour south to my house, then we go another hour south to Toronto. Some people come in from Ottawa and Windsor, Ontario, which are both a four hour drive away in different directions. One incredible die-hard, Steve, drives up from Virginia in the US! This season a number of people have also announced they’re going to be flying in to Toronto from other cities in Canada.
There are a few grumblings about Toronto being promoted to Super League, what would you say to the rugby league fans who have misgivings about your presence in the top flight?
JD: I get it, I really do and I’ve taken my time in thinking it could work and truthfully if David Argyle said I’ve had enough it’s over. I do believe in expansion and I think Toulouse would be a great addition too. We have to try and move the game away from that M62 corridor and I know many teams have tried and failed but what do we do? Give up and go back to rugby in the 70’s & 80’s? That all being said it’s here and yes I’m sure there will be teething troubles with having professional rugby players over rather than semi-pro but I’m sure the wolfpack will deal with them. I’m interested to see how long they come for. Normally the Championship teams would fly in Thursday and leave straight after the game or on the Sunday. I’m sure playing on the artificial surface and experiencing jetlag can only favour the wolfpack. Wolfpack do have a fans group in the UK too and I am aware that there will be over a hundred going to the first game at Leeds.
TWP: Come to Toronto and see what’s it’s all about. We are a loyal group and know our league. It gets tiring defending out existence but the Pack are good for the sport, they will eventually get it. If not let’s have a beer and we will change your mind.
S&L: We believe, as do many, that expansion is good for the game of rugby league. Expansion provides globalization of the sport. Toronto itself is a great example. Not only do the Toronto Wolfpack attract sell-out crowds of 9600+ at Lamport, the team has converted fans across the country and North America. New teams are being created. But there is more. The Wolfpack has brought new attention to and renewed interest in the sport in areas where rugby league is already popular, such as England, Australia, and New Zealand. Canadians living abroad are cheering on the Wolfpack from Pakistan, India, and Japan! Toronto away fans will continue to grow in the stadiums across the RFL, especially now that they are in Super League. Rugby league has such a great, rich history. It’s something to be proud of. Why hide it from the rest of the world?
People talk about the lack of homegrown players on the Wolfpack. In Canada, we have leagues with hometown players. We field both men’s and women’s national teams. In fact, our women’s team will be competing in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup. But because we do not teach rugby league in schools, most people had never heard of the sport until the Wolfpack came to town. That’s why we decided to help spread the word in our own way! But things take time. Currently, interest in the sport has never been higher; this is evident in the media coverage of the team as well as the new clubs popping up in Toronto and around Ontario. For example, the Haldimand Wolfpack, a dedicated kids rugby league organization, was created because of the Toronto Wolfpack and has experienced much success in only one year. As interest grows, so will the number of Canadians playing rugby league. So while there are no homegrown players on the team as it stands right now, we are confident that one day there will be. But it won’t happen overnight. It is a long term goal that we are confident can and will be achieved. In addition, some complain that expansion teams pull players away from current UK clubs. While this may be true, perhaps the focus should be on the opportunities created by the voids for new, young players to step up and gain valuable experience and development in the higher ranks.
NM: A FEW grumblings!?!? That’s an understatement. For some, there is simply nothing that we can say or do to change their minds. They have to come and experience it in person. I’ve spoken with many match officials, players of both teams, and supporters of visiting clubs, and they all agree there’s nothing like it. We welcome everybody. And we expect to shake the hands and chat with the visiting players after the match, so they’d better be ready to walk the perimeter and be treated like friends. This is something that opposing players find unusual, but soon warm to. And come to the beer garden after the match as well, where we all mingle together.
It’s completely incorrect to think that fans here will stop going if the team lose all their games, which is a comment I’ve heard. Going to a game is about what happens on the field, but it’s also a fun, social event. There are plenty of children, families, teammates from other sports out together, and groups of friends both young and old, male and female, at games. We might leave disappointed with a loss, but we’ve still had a good time. Nobody leaves angry. Otherwise why would you go if that was a possibility?
In the long term, we believe that Toronto’s inclusion in Super League will be beneficial to the sport both in Canada and the UK, but we can’t do it alone. For rugby league to truly grow over here we need more professional teams at the top level. Then they can develop youth academies that are able to play against each other, and can present a viable career path. For all the moaners who expect the Wolfpack to be stacked with Canadians, they clearly haven’t thought of the logistics involved. Those kids would have to play regularly, which would mean either sending them to the UK to live, or flying youth teams over here. Better to get an Ottawa, a New York, a Philadelphia, a Boston, etc., with teams over a number of years. New leagues starting up over here have a long history of failure, which is why a standalone North American pro league at this juncture would be a terrible idea. Expansion teams into existing league structures, however, have a proven track record of success in North America. If you want rugby league to take a foothold here, it has to be through the best league in the Northern Hemisphere, the Super League. (And for those who wonder why we don’t join the NRL, I’m happy to provide basic geography lessons drawing on my role as a teacher for the past 25 years.) I would like to add the caveat that simply changing the teams in the Super League, but keeping them at 12, is not really expansion though. The National Hockey League in North America had six teams in 1967. In 2021 the 32nd team will begin play. That’s expansion.
How do you think the Wolfpack will go in 2020?
JD: I think it will all depend on injuries. If the key players stay fit then I can see them finishing 5th or 6th. With injuries it could see them in the bottom 4 but not going down. The Wolfpack have entered the Challenge Cup and all games will be played in the UK so I’m not sure if it’s a real priority for them. Super League is the priority.
TWP: Honestly, I think we are going to avoid relegation. Anything above that is going to be gravy. It’s not going to be a pushover but we could certainly make some noise in the league.
S&L: We haven’t seen enough of Super League to even begin to predict where the Toronto Wolfpack will finish in the table. We do, however, have the confidence in our team, coaching staff, and director that they will be successful as long as they play their game with the required discipline. As of right now, our team is very talented but not very deep. If we are unfortunate to be plagued with injury, anything can happen, but we are confident we will avoid regulation.
NM: This is impossible to predict with any kind of confidence. Since this is a long-term project, finishing 11th or higher would be a success and we’d be content. I’d even be comfortable with finishing 12th if the Super League decided to go to 14 teams next season, bringing up two clubs from the Championship and relegating no-one.
Having said that, it would be outstanding to make the playoffs, and I have a deep hope that I will witness Toronto play at the Challenge Cup Final when we’re over in July. But I’m not putting the boys’ education savings fund on that happening. Injuries to such a numerically small squad will be the difference. If healthy, finishing 8th or higher isn’t unreasonable. But a few season-ending knocks could see the Wolfpack fighting to avoid relegation.
Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve? Sonny Bill Williams is one of the biggest names to grace both codes of rugby – how much of a buzz has been created in Toronto with his signing?
JD: SBW is huge for Toronto and the game in general. Is he passed his best only time will tell. When he was signed it was all over the Toronto media and that’s a tough ask given that they are probably the 5th or 6th biggest sport in Toronto. You hear nothing right now and we have yet to find out if we can see the Wolfpack games on the TV. They need to have that to keep up the momentum generated. SBW is going to be a draw no doubt. As for recruitment the other two signings are just squad players. I wish they would have signed another half back. I rate Joe Mellor but Josh McCrone or Blake Wallace are not good enough. The squad is thin and will be tested no doubt. I did think they would bring one more player in but they say because of the cap they are at their max. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a loan or two come in as the season goes on.
TWP: Yep for sure. We will need to get a few more pieces if we get injuries but it looks good so far. SBW made CBC, Sportsnet, TSN, The Score, Global and every major newscast. It made more of a splash then any rugby news I have seen in NA for a long time.
S&L: There hasn’t been much recruitment so far this season. We need more. The big signing of course has been Sonny Bill Williams. We must say that we are pretty pumped to see him suit up for the Wolfpack. He has definitely drawn a lot of attention to the sport and the team not only here in Canada but internationally. His recruitment also brings new demographics to the sport and the RFL, which can only be good for the sport as a whole.
NM: Recruitment in terms of number of players has been a bit of a let down, but signing Sonny Bill Williams was a boost. This has made both the rugby league and rugby union worlds sit up and take notice. At the same time, outside of those groups very few people in North America know who he is, so this is not a massive PR coup locally yet. When the public are told, through the media, what a huge deal this is, they will get on board with it, but for now the buzz is limited to those familiar with him already. If you asked an ordinary Canadian on the street to name any player in either code, chances are you’d draw a blank. League and union are still very much niche sports here, well down the pecking order. Which is also why this is such an exciting endeavour – there’s so much potential.
Golden point was used in Super League last year – what are your thoughts on the system?
JD: What’s wrong with a draw?!
TWP: Seems a little strange but makes sense if the league does not want ties. It’s hard to end a game another way haha!
S&L: We like Golden Point! North American sports fans like to have a clear cut winner, and in most of our professional sports, there is some version of overtime during regular season play. This is true of NHL hockey, NBA basketball, NFL football, CFL football, MLB baseball, and MLL lacrosse. The exception is MLS soccer where overtime is only used in the playoffs.
NM: Golden point is what we would call sudden-death overtime. Not always the best way to determine the winner, but if the sport is trying to avoid scores ending in a tie (draw) it’s something we are used to. I personally think that sometimes both teams deserve a point for what they did on the field. But we’ll go with whatever the rules are. Shot clock, fewer substitutions, larger player rosters, just tell us what it is and let’s get on with it. But I’m not a big fan of the scrums. Either encourage contested scrums, or replace them with a quick tap. That’s just my opinion, from someone who knew nothing of rugby league before 2017.
Which one of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season?
JD: Ricky Leutele no question. He was the stand out performer last year especially in the big games.
TWP: Wallace or Ackers for sure. They have been truly amazing in every sense of the word.
S&L: We think Liam Kay is the one to watch this season. He has been with the Wolfpack since its inception and was in fact the first player ever signed. He has a strong emotional stake in the success of the club. Furthermore, he has been an integral part of the club’s success from day one, at times carrying the team to victory. His energy and effort is infectious to his teammates. So is his heart. He actually put his hand up to play in the 2018 MPG despite still being hurt. During the 2019 season he was still playing injured. Bottom line? We haven’t seen Liam at 100 percent. He has crazy potential, so watch for him!
NM: I’m NOT going to say SBW, because that’s the obvious player everyone will be watching. This is a tough call, but I’m going to say Blake Wallace. He’s been with the team since day one, scoring Toronto’s first try, as well as scoring the go-ahead try in the Million Pound Game that earned the Wolfpack promotion. He loves the game, and has a smile on his face when he’s running that makes it impossible not to smile along with him. Small, elusive, fast, and exciting to watch. And a good man. Be proud to have him take up Canadian citizenship.
When I read various analysts and they describe Toronto’s squad as full of journeymen, or cast-offs / rejects from other teams, I think that speaks more to their lack of knowledge and respect for all teams outside of Super League. With that in mind, there are likely going to be a number of players on the Wolfpack who observers in the UK find surprising, largely because they haven’t been paying attention.
Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season?
JD: Do we have any young players? (I’ve just found myself writing we and I’m still having a hard time on who I’m going to be cheering for on February 29). I just went through the squad again and I think James Cunningham is the youngest at 25. I am interested to see how he goes as he was quite useful for London.
TWP: Springer is going to have a big year.
S&L: We don’t really have any young players on our team anymore. Can we have Nick Rawsthorne back from Hull KR, please? 😉😉😉
NM: We don’t have a lot of young players, although Joe Mellor looks like he’s about 12 with that babyface. I’m going to say that, aside from Blake Wallace mentioned previously, people should watch out for young Jon Wilkin. Coming to play for Toronto has given him a new enthusiasm for the game, taking years off of his biological age. I’m not sure what oppressive regime wore him down previously and aged him so badly, but this kid is happy and he’s going places. Coming to play in the 4th largest city in North America (behind only Mexico City, New York, and Los Angeles) will help him to become more widely known.
Right, can you give us your predictions…
JD: Top 5: Saints, Wigan, Warrington, Castleford & Toronto; Grand Final: Saints v Wigan; Champions: Saints; Challenge Cup winners: Warrington; Relegated: Hull KR
TWP: Top 5: St Helens, Wigan, Wire, Castleford, Toronto; Grand Final; St Helens vs Wigan; Champions: St Helens; Challenge Cup winners: Salford
S&L: We don’t have enough experience with Super League to make any Top 5, Grand Final, Cup, or Relegation predictions, but we are really excited about all of the new experiences that SL will provide this upcoming season.
NM: Top 5 (to be taken with a grain of salt): St Helens, Warrington, Hull FC, Wigan, Toronto; Grand Final: Hull FC, in an upset over St Helens; Challenge Cup Winners – Toronto (a man can dream)
Relegated – No one. League will expand to 14 teams. But if not, Huddersfield.
Who will be Man of Steel? Do you agree with the way the votes are given out?
JD: Jonny Lomax. I have no real opinion on it if I’m honest.
To finish the Wolfpack has got my love for rugby league back. I know many expats who I’ve got to know at the games feel the same. We have even started a Ontario Masters Team called the Greybeards who played twice last year and are hopeful of playing more touring teams this year. I have six mates coming over for Saints game in May and that would never have happened if it wasn’t for the Wolfpack. Neither would I fly back to the UK for a weekend in February to watch Saints. I hope the Wolfpack are here to stay. See you guys in February.
TWP: Who knows haha! To be honest not even sure how the votes are given out!
S&L: As we understand it, points are awarded after each game through Man of the Match and at the end of the season, the player with the most points is given the Man of Steel award. As long as the criteria for MOM is clear and equitable to all positions on the field, the process seems fair to us. As for who will win the prestigious award in 2020, our own Toronto prop Darcy Lussick has proclaimed he will score 20 tries this season. Because of this and his defensive prowess on the field, we believe he will be the 2020 Man of Steel. 😉😉😉
NM: The Man of Steel award relies on an objective group of journalists who are equally exposed to the play of all the teams enabling them to make a reasoned decision from the most evidence. In Canada, we have teams that play in largely American leagues (the Toronto Blue Jays in baseball, the Toronto Raptors in basketball) and as far as the American sports media are concerned there is nothing that goes on past their northern border. They don’t watch our teams, so the players don’t win awards, unless they are so far ahead of their competition that there is no choice. With that in mind, which teams in the Super League get the most coverage? It will likely be a player on one of those teams that gets the award.
It would be even worse to let it go to a fan vote, because the team with the largest fan base would run away with it every year. Every rugby league fan in Australia would choose somebody from the Wolfpack, just because it would make all the fans of the English Super League teams mad!
Anyway, I’m going to say, in a wonderful tale of redemption, Zak Hardaker. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see either Marc Sneyd or Lachlan Coote take the award. And of course I’d like it to go to one of the Wolfpack. Maybe young Jon Wilkin.