Four Points: Playoff Final v Featherstone Rovers
Wolfpack’s Off-Season Moves Pay Off
After a shock defeat in the final game of 2018 that saw them remain in the Championship, the Wolfpack wasted no time strengthening their playing squad and coaching staff during the off-season. With the benefit of hindsight, the historic victory against Featherstone Rovers and subsequent promotion to the Super League vindicates the tough decisions made leading into the 2019 Season. Every single one of the six players recruited to the Club before the opening game of the year took the field in the Playoff Final, as did Anthony Mullally, who signed early into the season and also played a valuable role during the Final.
Without doubt the biggest off-field change was the appointment of Brian McDermott as Head Coach. A complete season record of 28-1 shows definitively that the signing was an inspired one that has taken the Club to another level both metaphorically and literally. McDermott has brought a new level of professionalism and belief to the Wolfpack and the results now speak for themselves, as they have for his entire career as both a player and coach.
Featherstone Give Their All
After qualifying for the Playoffs in the fifth and final spot, Featherstone were one of the stories of 2019 thanks to a remarkable run that saw them leading the Wolfpack with just 23 minutes remaining in the Playoff Final. To book their place in the biggest game of the year, the Rovers defeated fourth-placed Leigh Centurions by 16-points, third-placed York City Knights by 26-points and second-placed Toulouse Olympique 24-points throughout the postseason.
It was a titanic struggle in the opening half of the Playoff Final and Featherstone were the ones to open the scoring and they refused to relinquish the lead before the halftime whistle. With so much on the line, the nervous energy could be felt throughout Lamport Stadium when the clash resumed after the break. The Rovers were relentless all day and came incredibly close to an upset victory while winning fans all over the world with their endless effort and commitment.
94,580 fans came through the Lamport Stadium gates across 12 fixtures to see the Wolfpack play in 2019, including a record crowd of 9,974 for the Playoff Final against Featherstone. These numbers show that the Rugby League expansion into North America not only has an audience, it has a passionate fan base that is growing consistently with each passing year and loves what the Wolfpack is doing.
In 2017, 11 games were held at Lamport Stadium, with 76,909 fans in attendance overall. 2018 saw 13 games played in Toronto, with 93,797 the total crowd number by the end of the season. A 14th game also took place at Fletcher’s Field’s in Markham with a capacity crowd of 2,917. The fact that these numbers continue to increase in a city with endless sporting options is encouraging and exciting for an expansion team that is only just starting to scratch the surface of their full potential.
Super League Opponents
The 2019 Super League is yet to be decided, with the Grand Final between Salford and St Helens set to take place at Old Trafford in Manchester on October 12, but the 12 teams competing in the 2020 Season have now been confirmed. The London Broncos, promoted when they defeated the Wolfpack in the Million Pound Game at Lamport Stadium in 2018, have been relegated back to the Championship to make way for the triumphant Wolfpack.
Toronto will be welcoming some of the world’s best Rugby League sides and their fans in 2020, including Brian McDermott’s old side, Leeds Rhinos, who have won the Super League a record eight times since its inception in 1996. Another UK giant, St Helens, a founding member of the Super League and six-time champion will be on the Wolfpack’s radar already as well. Then there are Wigan Warriors who lay claim to being the most successful Rugby League team in the world thanks to their 22 League Championships across their 146 year history. Every Club in the Super League have a rich and distinguished history and the Wolfpack now join that illustrious company to do battle in 2020.