Liam Kay on the Wolfpack Journey
As the first ever player to sign on the dotted line for the Toronto Wolfpack, Liam Kay is better placed than most to reflect on the Club’s journey from League One to the precipice of Super League promotion for a second time in as many seasons.
Kay was the leading try scorer for the Wolfpack in both their first and second seasons, recording an impressive 53 tries across 47 appearances throughout 2017 and 2018. While success game quickly both for the Wolfpack collectively and Kay individually, the acrobatic winger knew that his switch to a North American expansion team would not all be smooth sailing.
‘When I first signed for this team, it was kind of like jumping into the deep end of a pool and not been able to swim. Slowly but surely it is starting to pan out for the team. When I first signed, the original plan was five years to get into the Super League and so to make it in four years, ahead of schedule, I think it would be good for the game.’
A love for the game of Rugby League has been the constant for Kay throughout his career and was a huge factor in his decision to leave his home shores in search of a unique challenge. The support the Wolfpack have received in Canada over such a small period of time, a country that is fanatical about its sport but not historically linked to Rugby, has exceeded the expectations of the Club and assured players like Kay that their decision to dive in was a good one.
‘Personally, I just want to see Rugby League grow and I think us being in Super League would push it further in the right direction. We’re pulling the biggest crowds at Lamport that we’ve ever had. Last year was a big game in the Million Pound Game but this year will be even bigger than that.’
The Wolfpack’s Semi-Final victory over Toulouse Olympique, a game in which Kay scored his 11th try for the season from 16 appearances, came in front of 9,325 fans. That attendance is second only in 2019 to the Wolfpack’s Home Opener on April 28th against Swinton Lions that drew 9,562 through the gates of Lamport Stadium. The win confirms that the Playoff Final will take place in Toronto on October 5th and Kay knows that having such a prestigious game on Canadian soil will be warmly welcomed not just by the Club’s legion of loyal fans but also the players themselves.
‘We play in England for the first half of the year so the Toronto fans don’t get to see a game because we can’t play over here because of the weather. They get 12-13 games in the back half of the season so to have the Grand Final over here will mean a lot to the fans and it means a lot to us. A home Final with our crowd means it would be something we can celebrate a lot more. Hopefully we can bring some more silverware to this city.’
Unable to take part in the 2018 Playoff campaign due to a serious ankle injury sustained in the opening round of the postseason, Kay was forced to watch on as the Wolfpack fell just two points short against London Broncos in the Million Pound Game, a loss that would see them remain in the Championship for the 2019 Season.
Putting that disappointment behind him, the Irish international was superb in his return to Playoff Rugby when Toulouse came to Toronto for a blockbuster Semi-Final. In addition to opening the scoring in the second half, Kay also made several important tackles that ended promising Toulouse charges and won the ball back for the Wolfpack. A particular high point came when Kay perfectly anticipated a kick put through by Toulouse scrum-half Stan Robin and was able to pounce on the loose ball before it could be regathered by the French side, saving a certain try.
Kay has shown time and time again why he is such a valuable asset for the Wolfpack and the eye-catching winger is confident that the Club have put together the right squad for a charge at Super League promotion, a mission that requires just one more win to become a reality.
‘The lads have a created an environment that is a lot more serious. We’ve got players that have come in that are a lot more serious. People like Jon Wilkin have come in and put their take on the group, which is all good for the team. The squad that we’ve got this year features some new leaders and that is probably what the team needed.’
Having secured their place in the Playoff Final, everything now becomes about preparation for the transatlantic Wolfpack and Kay believes that the camaraderie within the locker room will see them through any and all challenges thrown at them during the all-or-nothing 80 minutes of action that will determine what level Rugby the Club plays in 2020.
‘The vibe is good. We train hard every day and get through some really tough sessions that the boys feel great after. It’s a cliché but we are all very close together and we’re all good mates. The team is more excited than anything now. Our main goal is to get into Super League and this year I think is going to be the year that we do it.’
Liam Kay will be in action when Toronto Wolfpack take to the field in the Betfred Championship Playoff Final on Saturday October 5, with tickets available from Wednesday September 25 through the Wolfpack ticketing page at Ticketmaster. Click here to secure yours.