Up The Kneets!

It is sometimes difficult to quantify the human spirit, but in the opening round of Rugby League’s Super 8s, it was the difference maker in the York City Knights 26-16 unthinkable upset over the visiting Toronto Wolfpack. Make that, over the previously unbeaten Toronto Wolfpack. The victory was epic and may one day even prove historic for the sport, let alone the franchise. The 4th place Knights took all the energy from their 2,602 cheering fans (highest attendance since 2009) and used it to shut down the Wolfpack as they opened an 18-0 half time lead.

The Wolfpack were strong right after the break scoring a couple of tries within 5 minutes. They did manage to get within 4 but simply could not get over that hump while the Knights never folded. Speaking of not folding, that’s the second time for these Knights this year. That is why this win is so much bigger than it may appear.

“The victory means so much to me, not just because we are the first team to beat Toronto, but because at Christmas, York City Knights nearly went out of existence” said Media Manager, Gavin Wilson. “Today felt like we had finally gone full circle and announced ourselves to be properly back in the game.”

And quite the announcement it was. This result is reverberating around the Kingstone Press League1 Super 8s right now and will continue all week. This is Different. The Barrow Raiders who just beat Whitehaven RLFC 15-2 are now tied with them in second place. They are both only 3 points behind the Wolfpack. York has cracked the chink in the Toronto armour and opened up the possibility for either Barrow or Whitehaven to get first place and the easy promotion to Championship League. Although York may be a little too far back to do that themselves, now that they beat the big, bad wolf, they could beat any team in the playoffs and could possibly win the second promotion. This one game therefore has provided hope and injected an energy into these Super 8s that did not exist 24hrs earlier.

The Wolfpack for whatever reason, were not themselves today. They made too many mistakes, took too many penalties and lost their cool resulting in two yellow cards. The refs were certainly not perfect on the day, but in the end, the main reason for the Wolfpack’s first lost of the season was because they could not match the Knight’s intensity throughout the game. To be honest, I don’t think many teams, regardless of the league, could have matched that “we’re just not going to lose today’ attitude.

A number of players had great games and could easily be Man of the Match such as Liam Harris with 2 brilliant tries or Connor Robinson and his 14 points. Maybe it was the team’s defensive play that won the match, holding a 60 point team to just 16 points. Or is this one of those rare occasions where the 14th man, the fans deserve the accolades. It was their energy that transformed this mild-mannered Knights team into super heros that first half. But if we take a step back, we will find that the victory really came to be when the organization and fans, both past and present, galvanized together. They were unified because this game was treated not as a game, but an event. People came together to help pull off a fun and fantastic marketing/promotion campaign.

“The #UpTheKneets hashtag has been slowly growing through the season,” an elated Wilson said after the game. “used by players and fans alike as a bit of ‘Yorkshire slang’.”

In the two weeks or so from the release of the schedule to the game, a prominent Yorkian (somehow I don’t think that is the right way to phrase it) or a former Knight, would take to Twitter every day and spread the word about the Transatlantic Tussle. The buzz that it created was felt not only in York, but all of Rugby League. It wasn’t brash or arrogant but what the buzz did… or seemed to do was, well.. it made it cool to like the Knights again. It made it cool to like rugby league again and most importantly, it made it cool to have passion and hope again.

“As soon as the fixtures came out we knew that we had a unique opportunity to really start the Super 8s with a bang.” said Wilson. “After Toronto hosted us so amazingly just 4 weeks ago we really wanted to return the favour!”

For those that are only 6 months into the Wolfpack as I am, the one thing that constantly amazes you is the experience you get watching a Wolfpack game at the Den. As fans, we are grateful that there are these Saturday afternoons, where we have the privilege to get together with 6000 of our closest friends and share a few hours of sporting entertainment, an adult beverage and enjoy the break from our everyday lives. It is a special time. The passion that Toronto fans have brought into the Wolfpack and into Rugby League is significant. The best part about it, the best part of all of this, is that passion and hope are contagious. Gavin Wilson just proved it.

So once again, a gigantic congratulations to owner Jon Flatman and the entire York City Knights organization on an incredibly well deserved victory! Torontonians will always and forever #RunWithThePack but today, for today, it is perfectly cool to #UpTheKneets

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