As the Toronto Wolfpack prepare for life in the Kingstone Press Championship it has been confirmed that five members of the League 1 title winning squad have departed the club. Steve Crossley, Tom Dempsey, Shaun Pick, Rhys Jacks and Sean Penkywicz will not be included in the 2018 squad.
Toronto Wolfpack Head Coach Paul Rowley commented:
“All five departing players have made a massive contribution to the Wolfpack family both on and off the field. They have made history and all hold a heritage number that they should be forever proud of.
“This is the downside to coaching and the cruel reality of sport is that inevitably players move on during the close season. In remaining honest in my appraisal, and truthful to the facts that are presented, it allows all concerned to cope and move on in a positive manner.”
Steve Crossley has signed for the Bradford Bulls, where he will line up in the Kingstone Press League 1 for 2018. Crossley joined the Wolfpack from the Bulls, and returns to his hometown club for a 3rd spell. Rowley said:
“Steve was a valued member of our squad and played a leading part in our successful first season, his strong running style made him an instant hit with our Toronto fans. I respect that Steve has chosen a return to his home town Club Bradford Bulls and I am sure he will once again have a strong year for the Bulls in Championship 1.”
Tom Dempsey is a Canadian International, who has previously starred for the Wolverines alongside Wolfpack teammate Rhys Jacks. Rowley reflected:
“Tom has struggled to make the team yet has remained positive and determined throughout the whole season. His commitment and application have been fantastic, however unfortunately tough decisions need to be made and we will be moving to a level that in my opinion would prove too much of a challenge for Tom at this time. We wish him well and thank him for his contribution to the pack in 2017.”
Shaun Pick joined the Wolfpack at the start of the 2017 season, having formerly played for Featherstone Rovers. Rowley commented:
“In my opinion Shaun has undoubted qualities that sees him yet to fulfil his potential. The call to Shaun was difficult and emotional because I’m confident with game time he can become an accomplished player.
“I felt as the season progressed Shaun began to work harder and take himself more seriously. The need to select my strongest team as the season came to a high-pressured climax did not allow Shaun the time required to get up to speed. No bridges have been burned and I will watch with interest how he attacks 2018 with whomever he lines up with.”
Rhys Jacks is a Canadian International, who also captains his country. Rhys made 14 appearances for the Wolfpack in 2017, scoring 6 tries. Rowley advised:
“Rhys Jacks is the most improved player of 2017. He joined our club in my opinion with little self-belief and craving the support of a solid team environment. As his belief and confidence grew he became a reliable, consistent performer who can continue to improve. I want Rhys to be the best he can be and back himself more with the confidence in himself that his coaches and peers have in him.
“The situation as it stands is that the rules of the game categorise Rhys as a quota player for the Wolfpack despite his Canadian international status. This would leave the Club’s 2018 squad at capacity which would restrict further recruitment plans. We have worked with the RFL to review Rhys’s position but unfortunately we have been unsuccessful on this front. Although frustrating for all concerned, we remain respectful of the competition rules.”
Sean Penkywicz has retired from professional Rugby League, closing the curtain on a 226 game career that included Super League Rugby with Halifax and Huddersfield, as well as international caps for Wales. Rowley reflected:
“I have known Sean on and off the rugby field now for several years and I know how much it meant to him finishing his career on a high in our Championship winning season. Sean demonstrated all that is great about him in his final year, his grit and determination in dealing with adversity, his phenomenal try scoring ability in nicking tries close to the line and above all as a strong, resilient member of the team.
“With over 200 league games under his belt and representing his country Wales at the highest level, Sean can look back with great admiration at what he has accomplished and I wish him and his family my best wishes in the future.”
“I cannot stress enough that the boys leaving will leave a massive void in the Wolfpack family. Sport is ever evolving and regeneration is a necessary but sometimes this is hard to take as a by-product of success.
“Each player should be proud to have been a part of the very first team to write itself at the start of the Wolfpack tapestry. I speak on behalf of all the staff and team in wishing the lads the very best of luck in their future endeavours, both in Rugby and beyond.”