What Rugby League means to Canada
At the time of writing I have only ever watched two Rugby League matches. A few of weeks ago when the Toronto Wolfpack squared off against Hull FC my interest was piqued then when the Wolfpack faced Siddal, Rugby League took my heart. Where has this sport been my entire life?
The Wolfpack’s first two matches have provided a vast glimpse into Rugby League. The first match against Hull FC highlighted a bit of the glamour and finesse that exists in Rugby League. Toronto has a long way to work its way up to the Super League. But squaring off against Hull FC I learned that Toronto is not that far from the summit. There is plenty of experience in the side in order to overcome some moments of adversity. The second match played against Siddal is where I fell in love with the sport (apologies to my missus).
Watching the Wolfpack head out onto a pitch that didn’t have any stands was odd. Then watching the game in that climate made me shiver through my laptop screen. The play was enlightening, gutsy and hard-fought. Even though Toronto tried to play expansive rugby, Siddal defended like heroes. For the first half an hour it seemed like nothing would break past the West Yorkshire boys.
In the second half Siddal gained some footing in the match. After Fuifui Moimoi (the greatest name in sport) decided to go berserk and get himself sent off, Siddal grew into the match and an upset was close. At the end of the day the Wolfpack’s experienced minds stayed cool. The Torontonians bunkered down and managed to see out the win.
Playing in the shiny KCOM stadium in Hull was special. It was foreshadowing for what the Wolfpack could be playing in every week a few years down the line. But seeing the lads play out in a field in front of a couple of thousand was truly inspirational. As the Wolfpack work on climbing up the Rugby League ladder I hope that in Canada we can develop a Siddal of our own.
When the Toronto Raptors were established in 1995 there were only two Canadians in the NBA. Now over 20 years later, there are nearly twenty Canadians playing in the NBA this season. Andrew Wiggins the next big NBA star is a Canadian from Toronto. Canadian basketball is on the rise and the same can happen to Rugby League. The immediate impact of the Wolfpack will be selling tickets and growing an audience. In the long run the purpose of the Wolfpack will be to cultivate and inspire North American talent that can play in the worlds best Rugby League teams.
Getting North Americans interested in Rugby League isn’t impossible. The six tackle rule translates easily to a NFL loving audience. The hard hitting and selfishness appeals to ice hockey lovers. Thus far I have only watched two full Rugby League matches, but seeing the free flowing play, the hits and the culture around Rugby League, I realized that I can definitely get behind this sport.
After the Challenge Cup match the Wolfpack kits were so caked in mud and blood that it was impossible to differentiate them from the Siddal players that they just squared off against. That kind of effort and courage isn’t seen all the time in Canada. North American sports are very prim and proper. Athletes get fined for altering their jerseys or wearing the wrong colour shoes, stadiums are no longer cathedrals for sport. Attending a match is more akin to being at a restaurant, conference room or an internet cafe. Hopefully Rugby League can bring back some grit to North America, its something that we miss and it is something that made me love League.