For those familiar with my last article No Place Like Home, I know you were thinking that I must have messed up. How could I possibly talk about Toronto being a difficult city for opponents of the Raptors, the Leafs and TFC to play and not once mention Toronto Wolfpack’s opposition from across the pond. The other League One teams didn’t fare very well when they visited here did they? That my dear friends is quite the understatement.
In 2017, their inaugural season, the Toronto Wolfpack played 11 games at home and that includes the Super 8s. They won every single one of those games and for the most part, they weren’t even close. The stats are actually quite daunting. They managed to score 580 points while only giving up 120. Therefore they defeated their opponents by an average score of 52.7 to 10.9. That’s a point differential of 41.8 points. For those that came out to 1 or all of the games, yes they were highly entertaining, but they weren’t very dramatic. No Toronto team dominated their opponents like the Wolfpack did. Not even close. So why did I not include them? Well, it isn’t for the reason you might think.
The obvious choice is that they were not originally included because this was a team made up of top flight players, playing in a Tier 3 division. As per the rules, the Toronto Wolfpack had to start their Rugby League life somewhere and League One seemed the most appropriate place. No disrespect to any of the teams that came to Toronto, but they could not match the money that Toronto had spent in getting the top talented players that they did. In fact, as been told to us many times over by fans of the opposing teams, many of the other players in League One also have other jobs and can’t commit to Rugby League 100% of the time. No disrespect to any of those teams or their players. Their efforts on the field was very admiral and only surpassed by their friendly, good humoured nature off the field.
That’s all fine and dandy, but it isn’t the reason why I did not include the Wolfpack. Truth be told, unless you’re the Barrow Raiders (sorry, had to take a little jab there) all of the teams in League One WANTED to come to Toronto to play. So yes, they knew it was going to be difficult and yes they knew it would most likely be a lopsided score, but they were still very excited to come over for the challenge and the experience.
The best part about that was that the Wolfpack fans, were also excited that they came over too. In what other sport has a number of visiting teams done a congratulatory lap around the field after the game? In what city has this ever been done? We had a fan (shout out to you WolfpackPack) give a visiting player a beer seconds after the final whistle blew. We had supporter groups allow the owner of a visiting team to not only take pictures with them but also bang their drum. And by now, you all must have heard how the North End Beer Garden is its own form of insanity. Players and fans of both teams get together for some music, an adult beverage or two and good times had all around. It is so surreal, some of us were expecting a fire pit and a Kumbaya sing-a-long to break out at any time.
With all this goodwill, how could I have possibly included the Toronto Wolfpack in my previous article as a team that visitors hate to come play? For now, I just can’t… but that can soon change. 2018 may be a different story. With stiffer competition on the horizon, we as fans might actually begin to (dare I say it) hate the opponents? Ok, I forgot this is Toronto and this is Canada… we don’t hate anything. Let’s say that possibly this year, Wolfpack fans will go from embracing opponents to possibly, slightly disliking them. Not possible? I beg to differ and here are my top three candidates that we can detest until Montreal gets a Rugby League team of their own.
We will start with Barrow themselves. We have played them twice already and unfortunately for them, both have been played in Toronto. I am sure the Raiders would like a crack at the Wolfpack in their home park and this could be the continuation of a great rivalry. What a story it will be if both teams also get promoted to the Super League at the same time. By the way, in those two games we outscored them. trounced them and pounded them 96-4. That’s right..first shots fired! First shots fired!
Another potential team to dislike is Toulouse. No, we don’t hold anything against the French (unless you support a Montreal team) but as the only other team outside of England in the Championship League, this has the making of a good grudge match. Which foreign team will reign supreme? Which outsider squad will irritate the English locals the most. Need a little spark to start this fire? These two teams will face each other during Magic Weekend on May 19th. This is the first time two Championship teams will be participating in it and what a way to start off bragging rights. Actually, you know what, the hell with it, french is french and is close enough to being like Montreal, I say we start the rivalry already.
Finally, if there ever was a team that could be disliked… yes, even hated, it would have to be Leigh Centurions. What could they have done that would make us loathe them? Nothing really. What have they said that could generate such abhorrence? Again… nothing really. Then why am I painting the Centurions as Darth Vader incarnate? Actually, for this generation i should say Snoke right? Well, the reason is that we are very closely connected. Coach Paul Rowley used to coach the Centurions and a significant number of Wolfpack players were at one time or another, Leigh Centurions including last month’s recent signees Cory Patterson, Sam Hopkins and Adam Higson. It is more like Leigh Centurions versus Toronto Former Centurions. The best part about this rivalry is that we won’t have to wait long for it to start. They will face each other during the first week of the season opener on February 4th.
Let the hatred.. I mean let the dislike begin!