Toronto Wolfpack: Can Canadian club complete journey to Super League?

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By Dave Woods
BBC rugby league correspondent
Out of a location in Super League, Toronto Wolfpack are only 80 minutes By pipe-dream to the edge of reality.
Following three decades of playing their way the Wolfpack find themselves.
And on the back part of their bid for a spot in leagues elite, there was that a game created in Englands towns is starting to find its place in one of North Americas hottest cities.
I think there is a enormous opportunity from here, said Jon Wilkin, a multiple Challenge Cup and Grand Final winner together with St Helens, that this season was helping spearhead the Wolfpacks on-field bidding for marketing.
I suppose the idea is wild and whacky, but its a very professional set-up we have out here. It is just not a traditional heartland, Wilkin told BBC Radio 5 Lives Rugby League Podcast this week ahead of Saturdays game.
We had 9,500 individuals at our match a week (against Toulouse), and for me that is astonishing.
The Toronto Argonauts, by the Canadian CFL – the equal of the NFL – they had 12,000 people go to their match and they play in a massive 40,000 arena and its on TV around here.
So for the Wolfpack to receive 9,500, thats huge. An presence like that is not something to be sniffed at.
Promotion is far from a formality for the side.
Toronto, led by four-time Grand Final-winning former Leeds coach Brian McDermott, were leaders of this Championship this season.
But who moves around Super League is determined by means of a series of games, culminating in a one-off decider.
The Wolfpack were at precisely the identical position this past year, only to be shot down from London Broncos.
This year it and also the comparison between the two clubs couldnt be sharper.
Featherstone – who is fans rejoice under the self-styled nicknamethe flat-cappers – is a village that rests in the center of the rugby league heartland.
A stones throw from Super League clubs Castleford and Wakefield Trinity, in the shadow of their neighbours not far past, they are cast together with Leeds.
However, their history shows some brilliant moments up. Their latest afternoon in the sun was a Challenge Cup final Wembley triumph in 1983 and theyve an appetite to compete with the elite again.
Despite finishing fifth in the regular season this season, they have defied the odds away from house – all by Toulouse, York and defeating Leigh – to maintain a spot in this so-calledMillion Pound Game.
And Wilkin isnt surprised that they are Torontos opponents for this winner-takes-all contest.
No, not at all, he said. Everybody from the outside looking in might state Toulouse and York are up there, another best two teams in the competition.
However, the toughest two matches we have played have been against Featherstone. They have been the most games that weve played in, where its very much a tussle and theres not many fractures in the game, and they appear to enjoy that as far as any team we have played at this level.
Were eager to be there and so are playing them.
Earlier this week the Wolfpack reported that 8,000 tickets had been sold for Saturday.
Thats marketed, they state not given away.
And they expect to turn fans off on the day when thehouse full signs go up.
But win or lose, the Wolfpack will proceed, and Wilkin states his period with Toronto has revealed signs that the rugby league seeds from the city are beginning to take hold.
I think its growing, he explained. The area of the town in which the stadium is – an area called Liberty Village – is a type of a hipster area, Google have their offices there. There areas around there too, although it is a trendy, bohemian job place.
I would say nearly everybody in that area knows about the Wolfpack. Folks today stop you in the road and chat to you. They know more about the sport, they say things such asgood fortune in the last.
However, the challenge is Caribbean, the main portion of the city. Clearly the Blue Jays and the Maple Leafs are such brands that are enormous and I dont think there is as much visibility there, but thats growing.
I jumped on a street car another day, the tram, and the tram driverhigh fived me. It turned out to be a Wolfpack associated high five. As a small bench markers, I thought that was intriguing.
The odds are stacked in the favour with this last game of this season of the Wolfpack. Featherstone, a mainly group, had only a three-day turnaround before jetting off to Canada in flying back from their success at Toulouse.
The Wolfpack have had a week away and you dont have to travel from their Toronto foundation.
And Wilkin says that he and his team-mates are concentrated.
You can build up things a lot. Its a Grand Final and also the implications of us winning, we would go into Super League, he said.
However, the results of the games outcome do not effect the processes on the area, or else they shouldnt do. You are able to get too overawed by the scale of the job, but like anything else in life, once you break it down into small bite-size chunks it possible.
Big games and pressurised environments change peoples behavior. The challenge to us is we do not have to alter anything to win the match.
We are very respectful of Featherstone, they have a wonderful young coach as well, but if we perform in our finest I think we win the game and thats what we have to do.

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