Toronto to keep faith with promotion winners in Super League next season

The Woklfpack beat Featherstone to secure a place in the top flight.

By Press Association Published: 6 October 2019 - 11.15am

Toronto will keep 90 per cent of the players that earned the fledgling club promotion from the Championship for their assault on Super League, says director of rugby Brian Noble.

The Wolfpack spent heavily on recruitment last winter, bringing in the likes of Ricky Leutele and Jon Wilkin, after losing out to London Broncos in the 2018 Million Pound Game.

And the investment paid off with a 24-6 victory over Featherstone in Saturday’s Grand Final in Ontario.

It meant the club founded by Eric Perez in 2016 with a five-year plan to reach the top flight achieved its target with two years to spare.

“We’re keeping 90 per cent of this team because I think there’s 20 per cent improvement in them,” said Noble, who put together the initial Toronto team and gradually added to it.

“We know we need to be a little bit faster and a little bit stronger but I think the character will get them through a lot of games next year.

“Clearly we need to add so there will be three or four players to come in.”

The Wolfpack have been keeping a close eye on the Rugby World Cup and have been linked with an audacious move for New Zealand centre Sonny Bill Williams.

One player who will not be part of the team in 2020 is Australian forward Ashton Sims, who brought the curtain down on his 17-year career at the end of Saturday’s game.

“It’s special to bow out like that,” said the former Warrington prop. “All I cared about was a positive result at the end of the game and I’m pretty satisfied.”

Sims paid tribute to head coach Brian McDermott, the former Leeds and London boss who has taken Toronto into Super League in his first season.

“I really wish I’d met Brian early in my career,” Sims added. “He’s been super for me this year with his different outlook on rugby league.

“We had a really nice moment at the end of the game, I’m like the younger brother he never ever wanted.”

McDermott, meanwhile, re-iterated his plea for further expansion in Super League, arguing the presence of big cities is the only way to attract major investment and a lucrative television deal.

“In five years’ time if the Challenge Cup and Grand Finals are contested by teams from the north of England, it’s won’t work, it’s never going to get investment,” he said.

“You’ve got to have names such as London, Toronto, Toulouse, Barcelona and New York.

“I really wish I'd met Brian early in my career. He's been super for me this year with his different outlook on rugby league. I'm like the younger brother he never ever wanted”
- Ashton Sims on Brian McDermott

“I’m not really surprised with some of the anti-Toronto mentality from the north of England but I’m astounded there are so many question marks about whether we should or shouldn’t be in, I’m astounded that people don’t have the vision.

“Can you honestly tell me that Super League has progressed in any sort of fashion since 1996?

“Other sports like Premiership soccer, cricket, rugby union and tennis have all grown dramatically and we haven’t and I am sure it’s got to do with the fact that small towns in the north west of England and a couple of teams from Yorkshire have only ever won the Grand Final.”

McDermott’s controversial stance received the support of his captain Josh McCrone, who said: “Rugby league has got to grow to survive, everywhere in the world.

“Toronto is fantastic city to start the expansion, it’s one of the best cities I’ve ever been to in the world. The sky’s the limit for football in Toronto.”