Rugby League’s Championship season is just around the corner and many in Toronto were excitedly waiting to see how well the Wolfpack would perform in their second season. It has been and up and down offseason for the fans as the romance continued with some new signings, but also hit some lows with news that some players chose to leave. Their excitement turned to anxiousness and now their anxiousness to bewilderment as the fans were stunned by the team’s following announcement:
“Fuifui Moimoi, Ryan Bailey and Dave Taylor have left Toronto Wolfpack by mutual agreement. The club thank the players for their efforts and we wish them well in their future careers.”
The long and the short of it apparently has to deal with an incident that happened during their mini training camp in Portugal. Not much detail has been provided or leaked. Wolfpack coach Paul Rowley when asked about it stated he couldn’t say anything for legal reasons. Make of that what you will, but it can’t be good.
The court of opinion on Twitter is in full swing, laying blame on the players for the wasted opportunity and on the Wolfpack management itself for choosing these risky big named players. I don’t believe anyone should be voicing opinions without knowing any facts. Something about “walking a mile” in their cleats or letting a “person without sin” (bin) cast the first stone comes to mind. There may come a time when blame is to be laid, but right now, all it really is, is sad.
Most fans in Toronto had no idea who Dave Taylor was until the Wolfpack signed him at the end of last season. Excitement started to build around the “Coal Train” as his highlights circulated. Fans also read out about the narcotics charge in 2015 but, as Torontonians go, we are pretty good with second chances as long as he was in the right environment. It really is sad that we will not have a chance to see him play live.
Ryan Bailey didn’t have many opportunities to play in Toronto last year, but when he did his massive frame clearly made him stand out. He endeared himself to fans with his power and his ability to keep going no matter what. Yes, the Wolfpack jerseys are white and black, but there was always a sprinkle of red blood on Bailey’s. It was how he played the game. It was unfortunate that his one season was plagued with injuries, not to mention a trial regarding a drug test. In a landmark case, ruled just recently, the judge said that Bailey acted within his rights to refuse to take a drug test as it wasn’t going to be administered properly. It is sad to think that fans won’t be able to cheer him on again.
The biggest pain though, is obviously with losing Fuifui Moi Moi. No Wolfpack player quite caught the attention that MoiMoi did from the very first second he touched ground in Toronto. His unmistakable size and look coupled with his unmistakable crushing tackles made him THE fan favourite. It wasn’t until later when we found out how approachable he was and how unselfish with his time that he was that we realized just how special he was. Yes, he had a memorable career, but it isn’t the championships one remembers, its how happy he always made the fans. That will be missed and that is what is so difficult for fans to wrap their head around the most. Whatever mistake that was made, was made. For all of the positive memories I personally have of MoiMoi, I hate to think that this is how his Rugby career ends and how many people will remember him.
This is all part and parcel of falling in love with a team I guess. The Wolfpack were new last year showing off a new sport to a new city in a new country and they did it with near perfection. The fans openly embraced their new team by coming out in the thousands and the team returned that love by giving it their all and winning games in the thousands as well. It was as euphoric as a new romance should be. But romances that turn into long lasting, loving relationships aren’t just about embracing the good moments, they’re about dealing with the bad times… because every relationship goes through bad times. This is our first.
It will be interesting to see then how the team responds to this setback as their first game is just a couple of weeks away. It will also be interesting to see how the fans react as this story is far from over. More information will start filtering through over the next little while and you know for sure it will come up once again the first time the team arrives in Toronto. That game will have new significance now. It will be an eye opener for everyone as we try to grasp just how the relationship between the Wolfpack and their fans is evolving.