Greg Worthington on Resilience and Second Chances
On July 21 of 2018, midway through the Toronto Wolfpack’s clash with the Rochdale Hornets, Greg Worthington lay on the surface of Lamport Stadium, clutching at his knee. As the seriousness of the injury become apparent, a sombre silence settled throughout all gathered in the Canadian sunshine, players and fans alike.
Soon it would be confirmed that the jovial Englishman and Wolfpack inaugural squad member had torn his anterior cruciate ligament and would require a lengthy stint on the sidelines following major surgery. Cruelly, the blow had been dealt just three weeks before the Wolfpack would take the field to open their postseason campaign. In a season that had seen Worthington play every game barring two missed through minor injury, he would be unable to have a say in his side’s Playoff charge for Super League promotion.
The 2018 Season would end for the Wolfpack on October 7 when the London Broncos came to Toronto to face the transatlantic side in an all-or-nothing contest that would decide who would play in the top division for the 2019 Season and who would remain in the second-tier Championship. Worthington watched from the stands that day, his ninth consecutive week of doing so, and found it extremely difficult as the Club he had joined ahead of their first ever season lost by two points.
‘Last year the Playoff Final came around when I was injured and so I was sat in the stands and it was a painful watch. Standing there week in, week out with nothing I could do to help the team apart from being there and cheering the boys on was a really tough thing to go through. You can be a bit isolated when you’re injured and I just felt helpless.
That urge to be out there is so strong. I remember the last game, against London, I think someone took a picture at the end of the game of me sat in the stands with my head in hands. It hurt. It was hard to watch the boys go through that and to be in the stands not being able to help.’
Worthington’s injury would cause him to be unavailable for 23 matches in a row, spanning just over 10 months. Serious injuries, especially ones that severely restrict mobility, can be a huge challenge both mentally and physically given the extensive time in rehab and inability to participate in even basic training drills. While the entire Wolfpack squad had to stew on the loss to the Broncos for the entire off-season, Worthington also had to focus his energies on regaining fitness and preparing himself for another attack on the Betfred Championship in 2019.
Making his return on May 24 this season, coming off the bench against Sheffield Eagles in South Yorkshire, Worthington could barely contain his excitement to be back on the field. In typical fashion for the boy from Bradford, the only thing on his mind was the joy in being able to help his teammates on-field again. Even now, over three months since his return, Worthington is unable to resist grinning when discussing his addition to the team sheet.
‘This year I’m with the team, I’m training hard and I feel like I’ve got a chance to put my input into these big games and be around the boys again. I’m looking forward to that because I missed out on a lot last year.
The intensity in training is really high at the moment. Everybody is striving to be better. All of the little extras that can be done are being done. We’ve got to be professional and make sure no stone is left unturned. It’s a collective goal to be in Super League and we’ve got to make sure we turn up and do the job. We’ve just got to keep building on performances and really chase the 80-minute performance for these big games coming up.’
Toronto Wolfpack made huge waves in November 2018 when the Club appointed Rugby League stalwart Brian McDermott to the position of Head Coach, an appointment that Worthington welcomed for many reasons. Not least of which is that he and McDermott both hail from the same region in England, with McDermott playing over 250 games for Worthington’s hometown team of Bradford.
Outside of those connections, it is the strength, determination and belief provided by the new coaching structure that has resonated the most with Worthington and indeed the wider playing group. A seven-time Super League winner as player and coach, McDermott has an unrivaled pedigree in the game and knows exactly what it takes to win on the biggest stages.
‘Brian has brought a discipline to the Club. He’s got a presence. When he enters the room, he commands it straight away and everybody hangs on the words he is saying. He’s brought a calmness and a discipline to the team which I think has really benefited us this year. That has shown in our performances. There is a will and desire to work really hard for each other and Brian has been a big part of that.’
With his long-awaited return from injury now ticked-off, Worthington and his teammates have just one focus: two Playoff victories and the Super League promotion they would bring. Worthington was a crucial element of the Wolfpack side that won promotion out of League One and into the Championship at their conclusion of their maiden season, but he is well aware of what the primary goal of the Club has been since day one.
‘Promotion has been our target since I came to the Club. There has always been the aim to get into the Super League and to bring the Super League to Toronto. It’s going to be a tough job but it is one that we are capable of and everyone is striving to get us to Super League because we want to see the big games in Toronto. We want to challenge ourselves against the best and to do that you need to be in the top division.’
When asked what it would mean to be promoted, achieving a goal he has been chasing for three seasons, Worthington is characteristically selfless. Able to see the big picture, he is quick to recognize what it would mean for the city of Toronto and the Wolfpack’s steadily increasing, passionate fan base as well as the game of Rugby League itself.
‘To get promoted would be brilliant. The effect it would have on the fans would be fantastic, the effect it would have on the game as a whole would be fantastic. I am just really looking forward to getting into the Playoffs and I’m pushing for us to get promoted.’
After enduring such a tough end to his 2018 Season before displaying the perseverance and mental toughness to get back out on the field in time for the 2019 Playoffs, Greg Worthington has everything to play for in the coming weeks. With plenty of work left to do, it will be a wonderful moment when Worthington runs onto Lamport Stadium this weekend to take his place in the Championship Playoffs, something that was painfully taken from him last year.
Greg Worthington will be in action when the Wolfpack take on Toulouse Olympique at Lamport Stadium, Toronto in the Betfred Championship Playoff Semi-Final this Sunday, September 22 and tickets are available now through the Wolfpack ticketing page at Ticketmaster. Click here to secure yours.