For a rugby league player, the road through the Intrust Super Cup can often lead to the NRL, but there are also many other destinations.
Cup players can often be found plying their trade in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and France – but Canada?
North America is not known as a hotbed of rugby league activity, but in Canada, the Toronto Wolfpack are working hard to change all that.
They’re touted as North America’s first trans-Atlantic professional sports team, and to many they’re a fascinating case study in creating a team from scratch. Make that a team playing a sport that is almost unknown in their home city.
The club might be lacking in history, but the Pack are packing plenty of enthusiasm and are not short of investment.
Backed by Australian mining mogul David Argyle, they’re particularly well-funded for a team playing third-tier footy – the UK’s Kingstone Press League 1 competition. Not many third-tier teams could afford to fly 5600km from Canada to the UK for all away games, and fully fund other teams to fly back for home games. Nothing about the Wolfpack is very third-tier, with former England coach Brian Noble their coaching director, and no end of sponsors and media.
If the Wolfpack keep drawing blood like they have so far, however, they won’t be third-tier for long.
They’ve got designs on graduating to the UK’s Super League - and quickly.
To that end they’re snapping up talent left and right. The current Wolfpack includes ex-Intrust Super Cup and FOGS Colts Challenge players Tom Dempsey (Magpies and Easts), Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e (still the all-time leading try-scorer for the Souths Logan Magpies), Blake Wallace (CQ Capras) and ex-Magpies player Rhys Jacks, brother of current Melbourne Storm player Ryley.
Throw in some hard-nosed professionalism from former top-flight players such as ex-Eels enforcer Fuifui Moimoi and former Leeds Rhino Ryan Bailey and Super League doesn’t sound like such a pipe dream.
It’s such a crazy story the team are becoming cult heroes around the world.
Best of all, we all get to go along for the ride. The brains behind the Wolfpack are producing a behind-the-scenes “docu-series” Last Tackle: Inside the Toronto Wolfpack, which is part warts-and-all documentary, and part rugby league primer. You can watch it here: http://www.lasttackle.tv
It’s this rough-around-the-edges flavour that seems to be winning viewers on both sides of the Atlantic – a perfect antidote to a flood of hyper-produced NFL and NBA content. It’s this rough-around-the-edges flavour that is quickly turning the Wolfpack in the world’s most unlikely cult sporting team.
You can read more about the Toronto Wolfpack's story at NRL.com.