Sonny Bill Sets Sights On Toronto In A Move That Could Revolutionise Rugby League

The Canadian outfit were promoted last season and will be the first Transatlantic side in the Super League
12:52, 06 Nov 2019

Toronto Wolfpack. Get ready to hear this name a lot more.

Promoted to the Super League only last month, the Canadian outfit are on an ambitious mission to revolutionise rugby league in the northern hemisphere.

They are close to snapping up cross-code New Zealand icon Sonny Bill Williams and hope to make England World Cup star Manu Tuilagi their next big name signing.

Toronto are ready to make serious waves in the game after two promotions in only three years of existence.

Not only will they strike a deal with Williams worth £2.6m-per-year but they have also offered the 34-year-old a minority stake in the club.

The first Transatlantic team in the competition’s history is enough to make spectators watching on from a distance sit up and take notice.

Their assault on the market also makes for an exciting and intriguing Super League.

So often a tournament dominated by the north of England, it’s going global.

While Paris lasted just two years in the top division, Catalans Dragons, introduced after the region was identified as a hotbed for the sport, have competed at the top level since 2006.

Toronto Wolfpack coach Brian McDermott is confident that the club’s inclusion, and their grand plans, will benefit the game, but is irked that not all fans of the game agree with that take.

"It's a fantastic story and I think Super League needs to be able to sell a final to some potential investors or a TV deal which says it's going to be contested by big-city teams," McDermott told Sky Sports.

"In five years' time, if the Super League Grand Final or the Challenge Cup final is still competed by some small towns in the north of England - while Featherstone and Salford are absolutely fantastic stories - where we are going to sell that to is the interesting point.

"If we're competing for a final in five years, and we're sat around a table with mega sponsors or [negotiating] a TV deal, we can say 'look, one of our team starts with Toronto, and the other starts with London, or Barcelona or New York' - that's how the game grows.

"I know there are a few people opposed to us being in the comp, but we can't please everybody, can we?"

Toronto have piqued the interest of locals who had barely heard of the sport three years ago, getting crowds of 9,000-plus at the Lamport Stadium. 

However, they will play their first two home games at Headingley in Leeds and a third at Saracens' Allianz Stadium due to the freezing winter temperatures in Canada.

While there were initial question marks after the club were late with wages on more than one occasion, the financial investment at the start of 2019 means they can now go out and aim for some of the world’s best.

Sonny Bill Williams is expected to complete a deal soon while they are keenly pursuing England’s Tuilagi.

The Leicester centre turned down a big-money move from French side Racing 92 and eventually ended up signing a contract extension.

Who knows if Toronto’s massive aims could be enough to turn his head?

Rugby League is on the rise in Canada and shows no signs of slowing down.

Already, a consortium has snapped up Hemel Stags, a third-tier team, which will relocate and set up in Ottawa for 2021.

With new clubs across the world, surely that can only be a good thing for the progression of the sport?

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