Rugby League has carved its own niche in various parts of the world, including Canada. While the sport may not have enjoyed the same level of popularity as hockey or football in the country, its history is rich and its growth indicative of the enduring spirit of sportsmanship and competition. This article delves into the captivating journey of Rugby League in Canada, from its humble beginnings to its current status.

Early Beginnings:

The roots of Rugby League in Canada can be traced back to the early 20th century when the sport gained modest traction among enthusiasts, primarily in provinces like Ontario and British Columbia. The Canadian Rugby Union (CRU) had a significant influence during this period, fostering the growth of both Rugby League and Rugby Union in the country. However, it wasn’t until the latter part of the century that Rugby League began to make more significant strides.

Formation of the Canada Rugby League:

In 2010, the Canada Rugby League (CRL) was established, marking a pivotal moment in the sport’s history in the country. The formation of CRL provided a dedicated platform for players, coaches, and fans to promote and develop Rugby League at various levels. With a clear organizational structure in place, the sport started gaining momentum, attracting more participants and generating increased interest nationwide.

International Representation:

Before the CRL, an international men’s team called the Cougars represented Canada in the late 20th century. The Cougars represented Canada between 1987 and 2000. Results for the Cougars are listed below.

Year Result City Event Type
2000 Canada 28 – 12 Japan Wigan Rugby League Emerging Nations Tournament
2000 Italy 66 – 6 Canada Keighley Rugby League Emerging Nations Tournament
2000 USA 52 – 10 Canada Oxford Rugby League Emerging Nations Tournament
1999 Japan 14 – 0 Canada Orlando World Cup Qualifier
1999 USA 68 – 0 Canada Orlando World Cup Qualifier
1998 USA 32 – 6 Canada Glen Mills International
1997 USA 50 – 10 Canada Philadelphia International
1995 France 72 – 32 Canada Montreal International
1995 USA 44 – 0 Canada 44-0 Baltimore International
1994 USA 22 – 10 Canada St. Catherines International
1994 USA 22 – 0 Canada Atlantic City International
1993 USA 32 – 2 Canada Ottawa International
1993 USA 54 – 14 Canada Lake Placid International
1987 Canada 23 – 10 USA Pittsburgh International

After the founding of the CRL, significant milestones for Rugby League in Canada came with the country’s participation in even more international competitions. The Canadian national men’s team, the Wolverines, made its debut on the global stage, competing in tournaments such as the Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) qualifiers. The women’s team, the Ravens, quickly followed – attending both the 2016 and 2021 RLWC. These appearances not only showcased the talent within the Canadian Rugby League community but also contributed to the sport’s visibility and recognition on an international scale.

Domestic Leagues and Competitions:

As interest in Rugby League grew, domestic leagues and competitions began to emerge across Canada. Local clubs and teams sprung up in cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Edmonton, providing opportunities for players of all ages to engage in the sport competitively. The introduction of youth development programs further fueled the grassroots movement, nurturing talent and fostering a sense of camaraderie within the Rugby League community.

Toronto Wolfpack and the Global Spotlight:

In 2016, the formation of the Toronto Wolfpack brought Rugby League in Canada to new heights. The Wolfpack, the world’s first transatlantic professional sports team, made headlines by competing in the third-tier Rugby Football League (RFL) in England. Their rapid ascent through the ranks garnered attention worldwide and significantly raised the profile of Rugby League in Canada. The team’s success served as a catalyst for further growth and inspired a new generation of players and fans across the country.


The history of Rugby League in Canada is a testament to the resilience and passion of its proponents. From its humble beginnings to its current standing on the global stage, the sport has defied odds and overcome challenges to carve out a distinct identity in the Canadian sporting landscape. With a growing fan base, increased participation, and ongoing efforts to strengthen its infrastructure, Rugby League in Canada is poised for a promising future filled with excitement and opportunity.