(Toronto) The 2012 season was full of promise after
the Wolverines had overcome some major hurdles in 2011 with their first
international win against Jamaica followed by an amazing two point win over
neighbours the USA Tomahawks. On the domestic front there was also much to look
forward to with the continuation of a four team competition in Ontario and the
arrival of the inaugural British Columbia competition on the horizon.
It is fair to say that British Columbia
Rugby League exceeded everybody’s expectations in their first year with a solid
five team competition and the British Columbia Bulldogs performing admirably in
a home and away series against the Utah Avalanche and a third place finish at
the recent Remembrance Cup. The fact that British Columbia was able to establish
five clubs in its first year was a major achievement itself; however, it did
not stop there as the cream of the crop formed a formidable BC Bulldogs
representative team that demonstrated what a force British Columbia Rugby
League will become over coming years.
At the conclusion of the domestic
competitions the CRL announced that two worthy recipients would be heading to East
Yorkshire to the famous black and white club of Hull FC. Twenty year old Chris
Chalmers was selected from BC and Eighteen year old Graham Dobbs was selected
from Ontario to take part in a 6 week scholarship to train with Hull FC’s Super
League and Academy teams as well as playing with the East Hull Rugby League
team. Both Chris and Graham were well received in Hull and were great
ambassadors to the CRL and the growth of rugby league in Canada. Hull FC
representative Lee Jenkinson commented “I think the future looks very bright for Canada Rugby League, to think
that the game is in its infancy over there yet two of the first blokes we have
seen, could go further in the game, then as long as players of this calibre
keep on being produced, Canada Rugby League will keep on rising”.
Canada Wolverines kicked off their 2012 season with a match against old foes
Jamaica. The Wolverines team consisted of six players making there
international debut, including Jared Curry as British Columbia’s first
international representative and four players from the Ottawa Rhinos. The
Wolverines started the match well, but failed to display the same dominance
seen in 2011 and avoided some late scares with an 18 – 12 win. Whilst not the
perfect start a lot could be taken away from the match with many new faces
performing well. Another positive sign was the crowd in support on what had
been a stormy Toronto day. Over 4,700 spectators turned out and were entertained by
some big hits, bustling runs and exciting play in the closely contested match.
14th ranked Lebanon Cedars on their way over for the Canada’s second
match, there was a need for the Wolverines to step up their performance.
Fortunately, this is exactly what they did with an outstanding first half that
saw Canada go into the dressing rooms with a 20 – 0 lead. The Wolverines were
simply on fire in the first half, led by an imposing Keegan Watcham-Roy and
backed up by four tries to the outside backs. The Lebanese came back fighting
in the second half through scrumhalf James Boustani, however, the Wolverines
had enough gusto to overcome the Cedars and the adverse weather conditions with
an impressive 36 – 18 victory.
arguably their best performance to date, the Canada Wolverines must have been
confident of repeating there 2011 home defeat of the USA Tomahawks. Although
the Tomahawks are now ranked in the top 10 rugby league nations in the world,
the Wolverines must have fancied their chances of another upset over their
higher ranked neighbours. A poor opening stanza from the Wolverines all but
relinquished their chances of repeating history as the Tomahawks oozed
confidence holding a 16 – 0 lead at half time. Just like their namesake it is
not in the nature of the Wolverines to give up in battle and they came out
fighting in the second half like they were a new team. Three quick tries after
the break put the Wolverines back in the hunt trailing by just 16 – 14 with
thirty minutes still remaining. However, two more tries to the Tomahawks gave
them an unassailable lead heading into the last quarter. The Wolverines put in
a late charge with two more tries to centre Geoff Bylund to score a hat trick,
but it was not enough as the Tomahawks held on to a 28 – 24 win.
two of the Colonial Cup series required the Canadians to travel to Fairfax,
Connecticut with the ominous task of beating USA by more than 4 points to take
the Cup back north of the border. Like the first game, the USA players came out
the stronger of the two taking a 12 – 2 lead into the break. Again, the
Wolverines fought back to lead the game 14 – 12 midway through the second half.
This is as close as the Wolverines would come to tasting victory as the
Tomahawks edged away with four tries over the closing stages of the game to
retain the Colonial Cup with a 36 – 14 triumph.
final game of the season was always going to be the toughest for the Wolverines
who were coming up against the undefeated Four Nations champions, the England
Lions. Over 5000 fans jammed in to
Lamport Stadium for the much anticipated affair. The Lion’s rugby league
experience showed with their ability to control the ball at a ninety percent
completion. This was always going to be tough for the Wolverines to compete
with and showed on the scoreboard as the English consistently went over for
tries in the first half running up 40 unanswered points. In the second half the
Wolverines again showed much more fight and were rewarded when winger Matt
Pettie scored in the corner in a 68 – 4 loss.
CRL's Season Evaluation
Highlights: There was much to be excited about from
the 2012 CRL season, starting with the emergence of British Columbia Rugby
League. Not only was their inaugural competition of great success, but at the
international level they produced
six Canadian representatives in their first season in Jared Curry, Daniel
Blasco-Morris (Kelowna Crows), Chris Chalmers, Lincoln Bowman, Gurvinder Kalar
and Zion Afele (Surrey Beavers). In addition, fellow newcomers the Ottawa
Rhinos had four players make their debut for Canada, Graham Stevens, Justin
Redguard, Keegan Wathcham-Roy and Ken Warring. This expansion has been
encouraging to see in the early stages of Canada Rugby League’s development and
there is much to look forward to in the future.
crowd attendance for each of the 2012 internationals was a remarkable
achievement for the CRL and the Wolverines team. Despite some adverse weather
throughout the season the average attendance was 4198 specatators. The CRL will
be looking to build on this momentum for 2013 and will continue to entertain
their fan base with the exciting style of rugby league the Wolverines love to
most gratifying success of the season came after the fact. Through their wins
against Jamaica and Lebanon and close losses against the 10th ranked
USA Tomahawks, the latest RLIF rankings saw Canada jump from 21st to
18th in the world. The Wolverines have a long term goal to make the
2017 Rugby League World Cup and will need to continue to rise up the rankings
to prove they are serious contenders.
The Future: There has been much to like about the
progress of Canada Rugby League and the Wolverines since their inception in
2010; however, they will be the first to agree that there is plenty of hard
work to be done before becoming the rugby league powerhouse they dream of. If 2012 is any
indication however, the future looks epic.