Monday 18th September was a big night for everyone involved in Rugby Football League at Championship and League 1 level. It marked the annual awards night of the RFL’s second and third tier professional rugby league competitions and is always a highly prestigious event.
For one night only the players, coaches and everyone associated with the various clubs in these divisions dust off the tuxedo and expensive frocks to come together to be wined and dined in the season’s show piece event. This year representatives from every club converged on the Midland Hotel in Manchester for the presentation of all the big individual and club honours up for grabs from the 2017 season.
Toronto Wolfpack, having concluded their maiden rugby league campaign just two days earlier with a 26-14 triumph over Doncaster, were represented by the Wolfpack’s Business Development Officer Martin Vickers, as well as Director of Rugby Brian Noble, who flew back amidst end of season celebrations from Canada especially for the event.
Alongside the UK based duo were two representatives from the clubs main kit sponsor, Kappa, as well as a selection of the club’s solicitors from Brandsmiths, and representatives from the company Edstart in an evening where everyone’s efforts and hard work are recognised.
The Wolfpack came to the awards night as the pioneering success story of League 1 this year. Having secured top spot and automatic promotion with two games remaining in the Super 8s, the club were excited to be nominated for the League 1 team of the year award, whilst club captain Craig Hall was nominated for the player of the year award after an outstanding debut season for the club.
Beating strong competition from other clubs and players, the Wolfpack emerged as clear winners for both the big prizes and Noble stepped up on stage to receive both the awards to really put the icing on the cake to what has been a superb season for the Canadian venture.
On accepting the club of the year prize, Noble admitted that 2017 had been a huge success: “It’s been a great year for us. These pioneers have bought into what we were trying to do and have worked really hard all year to get to where we want to be,” he said.
“The same goes for all the other clubs that have travelled over to Canada this year as well, the feedback we have had from everyone is really positive and the fans are bonkers, they love rugby league over there and the sport has great potential in North America.”
When asked to give comment on the Wolfpack’s captain and player of the year Craig Hall, Noble said his acquisition had been huge for the club: “He’s had a phenomenal year. He’s scored 442 points,” he said.
“Craig is a quiet unassuming bloke but he leads with his actions on the field and under Paul Rowley’s guidance this year he has developed real leadership qualities. He knows when something needs to be said and he’s been invaluable to us this year, he’s a terrific talent.”
The Wolfpack table was a picture of celebrations, with all those involved seeing the fruits of their work and investment resulting in promotion and huge accolades for the sport’s newest club.
Representatives from Kappa hailed the emergence of the Toronto Wolfpack as a huge benefit for the sport: “Since we became involved it’s taken off more than we ever imagined. The interest has been absolutely massive and this is just the start, we’re confident that our partnership with the club is going to expand from here and we hope to see them celebrating promotion to Super League in 12 months’ time.”
With a plethora of big stars already signed up from Super League and NRL clubs, the Wolfpack are looking to take the Championship by storm in 2018. With crowds regularly over 7,000 and a squad oozing in confidence from their automatic promotion, who would bet against the Wolfpack claiming similar awards next year, having gained promotion to the rugby league’s elite tier?
List of awards:
Championship Player of the Year: Shaun Lunt (Hull Kingston Rovers)
Championship Young Player of the Year: James Bentley (Bradford Bulls)
Championship Coach of the Year: Andrew Henderson (London Broncos)
League 1 Player of the Year: Craig Hall(Toronto Wolfpack)
League 1 Young Player of the Year: Lewis Young (Newcastle Thunder)
League 1 Coach of the Year: Carl Forster (Whitehaven RLFC)
Championship Club of the Year: Hull Kingston Rovers
League 1 Club of the Year: Toronto Wolfpack
Championship Project of the Year: Featherstone Rovers
League 1 Project of the Year: York City Knights
Foundation of the Year: Newcastle Thunder
Supporters Direct Community Champion: Ray Abbey