Toronto Wolfpack officials have thrown open an invitation to NRL clubs to play in Canada ahead of their anticipated elevation to Super League next season.
The Wolfpack, who won last year’s League One competition in England and are leading the second-tier Championship league, have global ambitions and this week confirmed the signing of Darcy Lussick from Manly after he turned down approaches from rival NRL clubs.
Wolfpack director of rugby, Brian Noble, told NRL.com that Toronto was keen to host an NRL club and said there would be strong local interest for a match between the Ontario-based franchise and a team from Australia or New Zealand.
“We have to qualify for Super League but we are quietly confident and our aspirations are to be No.1 so we want to be engaged with the NRL and we want to be engaged with rugby right across the world,” Noble said.
“Our message to NRL clubs is come to Toronto, we think the people of Toronto would love that and it will be an unbelievable experience for everyone.”
Noble, who enjoyed success as coach of Bradford and Wigan, as well as Great Britain, suggested an English-based Super League club could also be involved in an international tri-series in Toronto.
“We want Super League clubs to come over here, that is why we are trying to qualify for Super League and we are working really hard in relation to that, but we are open and up for anything and we see the future of the game in events,” he said.
“For example, if South Sydney and Wigan and the Wolfpack played a round robin in Toronto the experience for everybody would be unbelievable and it would be a sell-out. I promise you there would be no better place to do that than in the middle of Toronto.”
The Wolfpack have lost just one of their opening 11 games in the Championships and need to finish in the top four to earn a place in the Qualifiers Super 8s along with the bottom four Super League clubs.
From there they aim to win promotion into Super League next season and have signed Lussick to bolster their squad, which includes former NRL stars Josh McCrone, Ashton Sims, Jack Buchanan, Chase Stanley, Reni Maitua and Cory Paterson.
“There’s a lot of interest already over in Australia, there’s a lot of interest here in the UK and in North America, so it’s exciting times ahead.”
Despite playing all of their games so far this season in England while Lamport Stadium undergoes renovations, the Wolfpack have maintained a strong social media following after averaging home crowds of 7,000 last season and their quest for Super League promotion receives regular media coverage in Canada.
With all Wolfpack matches broadcast live in the UK on Premier Sports, as well as in Canada through Game TV and the CBC Sports website, the club has been able to attract sponsors on both sides of the Atlantic.
“We want to create a centre of excellence for rugby in Toronto and open up North America, which is massive in relation to business,” Noble said.
“The small to medium-sized companies that we have engaged with trans-Atlantic have all benefited from the connections that we have helped them to make and I’m sure Canada and North America would open their arms to the Australian and New Zealand market.
“Our mantra is putting rugby balls in kids hands so we are here for rugby and if we can nail the North American market the game will really grow.”