2 days ago
Rugby league - the new American dream?
Rowan Harrip looks at the future of rugby league in North America following on from the expansion of the English competitions into the Transatlantic nation.
The Toronto Wolfpack gather together before a game. Players from all over the world in a collective with one goal in mind - to deliver a product, of sport to a new market.
Former Centurions coach Paul Rowley at the helm leading this group of men into a great uninhabited frontier. Their first squad boasts a competitive strong roster across the park, including experienced Wakefield Trinity Wildcats centre Craig Hall, try scoring dynamo Liam Kay on the wing, halfback Gary Wheeler, Canadian local Rhys Jacks, Illawarra Cutters youngster Blake Wallace, Wales prop Dan Fleming, American national representative player Ryan Burroughs, Cult hero and Tongan prop Fuifui Moimoi, Jamaican Nathan Campbell and the Wolfpack's youngest player Canadian born Quinn Ngawati - who lined up for Toronto a few days after his seventeenth birthday. Fans pass through the gates - 7,237 in total to watch their team deliver results on the paddock.
Established by independent businessmen to gain entry to the English Super League Competition via the lower tiers of the English game, we saw the Toronto Wolfpack come to be. After winning the third competition in 2017 and moving to the second tier in 2018, we may see this team become a first grade squad in a matter of 12-18 months.
The Rugby League World Cup, the jewel in the crown for our great sport is to be co-hosted by Canada and North America in 2025 and it is on the shoulder of these men to continue to work as a team to spread the message of the game and light the fire of passion for our game throughout this region.
It has been announced that three Canadian cities are to host games along with America, but the need for fans to be passionate enough for the game to attend is imperative. Why has a league not been established in any way only seven years out from the showpiece being played here?
In a nation that is so electrified by a contact sport such as the National Football League how has this not linked into a love for our great game? They both, after all share elements that would interest NFL fans and even American fans who are not NFL fans.
If Toronto does not continue to perform and a league established throughout America having the World Cup here with no knowledge of the sport, could be both a financial and public relations disaster. Recently we saw a website being launched by the consortium seeking approval for a New York based team. A Boston based team also has desires to follow New York and Toronto.
The ripple effect could continue from these three squads and into New Jersey, Montreal, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Jacksonville - all being viable team locations. We could see a league rival that of the NFL and see our great game spread internationally beyond the current climate.
Consider also the number of college athletes that do not make it into the professional ranks of the NFL - less than 2% of college players graduating into the professional NFL ranks. That leaves one incredible talent pool wanting to become a professional athlete each year from which American Rugby League can draw from.
To not act now and get the ball rolling on a league rather than simply wait to see how the World Cup is taken on is a huge risk that may be too large to take on especially considering the investors looking to get in now on the new American dream!