The Toronto Wolfpack are set to join England’s Rugby Football League in the new year, marking the inception of the first Trans-Atlantic professional sports team when it joins the British organization for the upcoming 2017 season.
The RFL is the governing body for Rugby League in England and runs the top 3 divisions of a 12 division hierarchy in the sport. At the top of the ladder is the Super League which is similar to Soccer’s Premier League. The RFL uses promotion and relegation each year to move teams up or down in divisions based on rankings. Toronto Wolfpack, as a new team in the league, will begin at division 3.
The Toronto Wolfpack team came to fruition through a lot of hard work by many people, but one person has been holding the reigns from the beginning. I recently got to chat with Eric Perez, CEO and Founder of the team, about the process and what we can expect from Toronto’s newest professional sports team.
Eric was born and raised in Toronto, attended Bayview Glen High School where he played Rugby and generally lived a normal life. In the early 2000’s, Eric would visit Gibraltar where he was introduced to the sport of Rugby League for the first time. In 2010, after spending time in Birmingham, Perez made up his mind that he wanted to bring Rugby League to Canada, specifically Toronto.
For the next 6 years, sacrifices would have to be made to make this a reality. Eric has hosted The Rugby League Show on Sportsnet for 6 years after having revived and presided over the national Canadian Rugby League team. He nurtured the national side, growing the game and drawing crowds of 8000+ people into Lamport Stadium for a Team Canada game. To make this team a reality, he would have to bring together his experiences as well as surround himself with the right people, making the right decisions. This would also require not making money for 5 years, trying to put everything that gets invested back into furthering the business of building a professional sports team.
That end game is closer than ever before. Perez brought on Coaches Brian Noble and Paul Rowley who have been scouting and signing players from around the world. Signings that include the Canada Rugby League Rhys Jacks, USA native Ryan Burroughs and the Captain of the Irish Rugby League squad as well.
One of the most exciting signings to date has been that of New Zealand and Tonga international representative Fui Fui Moi Moi, whose nickname from adoring fans is ‘The Steam Train’. The 37 year old prop player is exciting to watch and is expected to become a fan favourite in Toronto.
With the roster pretty much filled, the coaches and management have been traveling through Toronto, Vancouver, Miami and Jamaica to invite players to tryouts in England to fill the final 2-4 slots. They are documenting this process, which will be made into a docu-series called ‘Last Tackle’, following the Wolfpack open tryouts and the stories of the recently announced 18 finalists. After recently announcing the 18 finalists, the Wolfpack revealed that they will be sending the 18 hopefuls to train with the squad in the UK, and vie for a coveted spot on the inaugural 2017 roster.
So when do we see the Toronto Wolfpack in action?
We will first get to see the team in action in the first of two preseason games.
The first game is on January 22nd, 2017 against Hull FC who won the Challenge Cup last year (similar to the FA cup in soccer). Hull FC was founded in 1865, two years before the country of Canada, a fact that Eric expressed in a recent press conference in the UK, while going on to say – “Hull FC are a fantastic club in every sense, with a magnificent stadium and a great fan base, so it is the perfect place for our very first game. Their supporters have been really behind us on social media since we setup so it will be fantastic to share this landmark day with them.”.
The second game will be against the Wigan Warriors who are the current Super League champions in the RFL. These two games will mark the first time a 3rd division team has played both the Challenge Cup champions and the Super League Champions in the same preseason series.
If you are looking forward to seeing the Wolfpack play at home in Toronto, the first home game of the season will take place on May 5th, 2017 at Lamport Stadium (The Den).
Tickets for Toronto Wolfpack
Season Tickets for the home games are already on sale for $199, with individual tickets slated for release before Dec. 15th.
The Wolfpack is also interested in chatting with people who want to get involved with the team. Brand ambassadors, rugby fans and local sports enthusiasts are asked to get in touch with them at firstname.lastname@example.org