With the Million Pound game 2 days off, we are given the insight into championship life in Toronto by Stephen Owen.
Day two at Toronto and it appears weve brought the British weather with us! The Torontonians tell us the sun has been shining and that the fever was at the mid-to-late 20s on Monday, but its been cold and rainy today. That hasnt dampened the mood across the Wolfpack camp.
We went to see the Toronto squad train and the Wolfpack looked to say the least. It was officially confirmed the winner of Saturdays match is ensured a place in Super League for the 2020 season — which has contributed to everyone.
The travel to Lamport Stadium from the city center is a simple one — with this being such a city is hard to get to, whether that be in a taxi or on public transport.
Interestingly, the Wolfpack were practising drop target sets that shows they are expecting Saturdays game against Featherstone to be tight — and obviously their star full-back Gareth OBrien has background with drop goals from the Million Pound Game — who would forget his astonishing one-pointer to rescue Salford out of relegation at 2016!
There appears to be a very clear togetherness among the Wolfpack players, so spending much time in the company of each other appears like it brought something that has no doubt contributed to this clubs 22-game winning streak, a good group spirit.
Toronto is a city that is vibrant and the players seem to move around freely on the neighborhood tram network or bicycles. Prop forward Ashton Sims is just one of many players who appreciate the lifestyle that is Canadian so much that theyve decided to live in the city.
Talking to members of personnel at the club before now, theyre expecting to place thehouse full signs on Saturday with another record crowd heading into the Lamport Stadium. Its simple to see theyve exhibited a number of the imaginative posters that theyve made to promote matches and why many lovers flock into the floor, I take a look at the impressive club shop just. The staff are affable and exuberant — attributes for a organisation trying to make their way in a crowded sports marketplace.
The lovers who arrive at the game have been treated to what rugby team veteran Jon Wilkin described asthe very best pound for pound matchday experience hes ever come across. If you think about that Wilkin has played in the elite level in France, England, Australia and New Zealand — that is a massive compliment.
I learned that one of the people who sampled that matchday experience the previous time that the Wolfpack played at Lamport, was Rugby League World Cup winner Valentine Holmes. The Queensland flier lives in North America as hes part of the NFLs New York Jets practice squad.
I wonder whether his NFL ambitions dont come to fruition, is he somebody who might possibly choose while still living in North America, to come back into Rugby League? He won the NRL Grand Final at 2016 with Cronulla together with the Wolfpack centre Ricky Leutele, and when I mentioned this to Toronto Director of Rugby Brian Noble, he referenced how North Americans like big names to market their franchises; and Holmes would surely fit that bill, so who understands?!
Holmes wont be in Saturdays Million Pound Game as he is back in New York with the Jets — is the Mayor of Toronto, John Tory. That is big news. An extremely significant figure round the city can be a very clear sign of the way the Wolfpack have actually come to the eye of the fourth most important city in North America.
Political support is something that could be crucial in bringing a resolution to thePackages situation regarding their home floor of Lamport Stadium. This is not the most salubrious of home venues, but it is in a wonderful suburb of Toronto called Liberty Village — and the scene for nearly all the season lends itself well to what exactly the Wolfpack need.
However, over here it could be snowing all of the way through to April, and for a stadium that does not possess underground heating or even a roof to shelter in the snow that is debatable considering the rugby league season begins only a couple of weeks into the calendar year.
As weve seen this year, the Wolfpack have played withhome games in England as double headers which isnt ideal. Looking around town there doesnt seem to be many options, besides maybe the Rogers Centre — home to the Toronto Blue Jays. This stadium has the potential of well over 50,000 has a roof but and will no doubt come in a price that is substantial — so this option may not be feasible just yet.
Maybehome games in warmer North American towns could be a bit more realistic in the near future, but thats possibly a discussion for another day. One thing is for certain, Lamport Stadium will be the spot to be on Saturday!
The Featherstone Rovers team landed in Toronto as well now as they finalise preparations in 2020 in their bidding for Super League soccer. Well be visiting with their training to get the newest from theFlat Cappers as they seek to get one more triumph in what has been a phenomenal finish to the year for the guys from Yorkshire.