The following article was originally uploaded to Salford Red Devils
Following the recent Qualifiers fixture release, Salford discovered that they will face Hull Kingston Rovers, Widnes Vikings, Halifax RLFC, Toronto Wolfpack, Leeds Rhinos, London Broncos and Toulouse Olympique. Here we take an in-depth look at the first-ever professional transatlantic sports team – Toronto Wolfpack.
Season so far
2018, much like 2017, proved to be a highly successful campaign for Toronto Wolfpack. Toronto enjoyed a prodigious first Betfred Championship season, winning 20 of their 23 games including highly impressive showings in a 32-12 win over London Broncos and a 42-10 dismantling of fellow top four contenders Halifax. This run of form went on to lead the Canadian side to a second consecutive title.
Following an off-season of many comings and goings the Wolfpack started the season with an impressive result over Leigh Centurions. Going down to a 12-0 deficit, Toronto, thanks to a hat-trick from Liam Kay, scored 34 unanswered points to send hotly tipped Leigh packing.
Toronto remained unbeaten until a fourth round 47-16 humbling at the hands of fellow championship rivals London Broncos left them reeling. The next few months saw great success for the Canadians, note worthy victories against the likes of Toulouse Olympique and a 52-12 dismantling of Swinton Lions, their highest scoring game so far kept the momentum going.
Betfred Super League side Warrington Wolves prematurely ended Toronto’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup run in May with a 66-10 result. Bouncing back from this disappointment, the Wolfpack remained unbeaten for months. Edging Leigh Centurions in a 28-26 game at the Summer Bash was followed up by a resounding 32-12 victory of London Broncos.
A comprehensive 68-4 victory over Sheffield Eagles continued the Wolfpacks 16-game unbeaten run to hand them their first Betfred Championship title with braces from Chase Stanley and Adam Higson helping the Canadians to yet another heavy win across the pond. However, Toronto did lose their perfect home record since their formation with a 12-30 defeat against Featherstone Rovers at Lamport Stadium in the final round of Betfred Championship fixtures.
Toronto are led by Paul Rowley with the 43-year-old joining the Canadian club as their inaugural Head Coach in 2016 after leaving fellow Betfred Super League side Leigh Centurions.
The former England hooker started his career at Leigh Centurions before going on to appear in the Super League with Halifax and Huddersfield Giants between 1994-2001. Rowley returned to Leigh for the final four years of his career where he helped his hometown team win the National League One title in 2004. Rowley won four caps for England whilst at Halifax.
After retirement Rowley joined Leigh’s coaching staff before being appointed permanent First Team Coach in January 2012 after a successful first season at the helm, guiding the Leythers to second in the Betfred Championship.
On the back of his first season, Rowley led Leigh to back-to-back Betfred Championship titles in 2014 and 2015 before resigning as Leigh Head Coach prior to the 2016 season. Later that year Rowley was announced as the Head Coach of Toronto Wolfpack where he’s overseen great success so far, winning the Betfred League One title in 2017 and the Betfred Championship title this season.
Toronto’s current Captain is Australian halfback Josh McCrone. McCrone was handed the captaincy following the exit of Craig Hall. 31 year-old McCrone ended his nine-year spell in the NRL in his native Australia when he signed for Toronto from St George Illawarra Dragons in September 2017.
If Toronto wish to stake their claim for a place in the Betfred Super League for the first time next season the Canadian side will need some of McCrone’s leadership, creativity and experience to help get them over the line.
One to watch
Dynamic halfback Ryan Bierley broke through at Leigh Centurions in 2012. He finished as Leigh’s top try scorer for four consecutive seasons between 2012 and 2015, coinciding with the clubs back-to-back Betfred Championship titles in 2014 and 2015.
After scoring a double against Bradford Bulls in February 2016, Brierley overtook Neil Turley to become Leigh’s fifth top try-scorer of all time with 133 in 125 games.
Following this achievement and years of quality performances in the Betfred Championship, Brierley was given an opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream when he joined super league team Huddersfield. However, despite scoring 15 tries in his 25 games, including a memorable hat-trick from fullback in a losing effort at Wigan, his time at the Giants came to an end.
A surprise move to Toronto Wolfpack and a chance to reunite with Paul Rowley, his coach at Leigh, quickly came to fruition. Arriving for an undisclosed fee, Brierley scored an impressive 13 tries in his first 12 games during the club’s League One promotion winning season. He followed that up with 12 tries in his 23 games this year.
Brierley is a player blessed with devastating speed but it’s his ability to read the game and find himself in the right place at the right time that sets him apart from his teammates.
When’s the game
Salford will welcome their trans-continental visitors to the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday 8th September with kick off set to be at 3:15pm. The game will be broadcast live on Sky Sports.
Ticket details will be released in due course.
Written by Matt Tandy.