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Toronto Wolfpack make strides in leadup to inaugural rugby league season

November 17, 2016 - 12:19 PM

TORONTO - The Toronto Wolfpack have found a training base in England, wrapped up tryouts in three countries and signed players from Ireland to Samoa.

The fledgling Canadian rugby league franchise is slated to announce a "significant player signing" Sunday in Liverpool, England, at a news conference prior to the Four Nations final between Australia and New Zealand. Reports have linked Toronto to former Tonga and New Zealand international Fuifui Moimoi.

"We're also be announcing a landmark pre-season schedule — (one) never seen before," said Wolfpack CEO Eric Perez, who will also use the occasion to announce the team's U.K. broadcast partner and kit sponsor.

The Wolfpack open play in March in the Kingstone Press One, the third tier of English rugby league. The goal is to win promotion and eventually make it to the elite Super League.

Bankrolled by an unidentified ownership group of Canadian and Australian businessmen who made their money in mining and resources, the Wolfpack have spared no expense. They are paying the travel and accommodation cost for visiting teams and have made a 250-000-pound ($419,435) "good faith" payment to the Rugby Football League, the governing body of English rugby league.

That kind of commitment has won over naysayers in England, said Perez.

"We are super serious about making this thing not only successful but a benchmark for transatlantic sports," he said.

Starting March 4 against the London Skolars, Toronto will play its first five games on the road in England before opening at its Lamport Stadium home May 6 against Oxford RLFC. The Wolfpack will play the next weekend in Newcastle prior to returning to Toronto for two more home games.

Toronto will then play two more road games before finishing out the campaign with 10 straight home dates.

For Perez, it's a demanding schedule with a group of tough teams waiting from the get-go.

"They're testing us, but I think we'll be up for it," said Perez.

"If we get promoted, we'll deserve it because the schedule isn't making it easy," he added. "Nobody's doing us any favours, not do we want them to do us any favours."

The team will train in England at the home of Brighouse Rangers, a top amateur side located in Halifax just southwest of Leeds.

"Beautiful grounds, big clubhouse. Our office will be there," said Perez. "It will be the Wolf lair in the U.K."

Brighouse will function as a farm system for Toronto, which hopes to eventually operate more feeder teams in Lancashire, Toronto and the U.S.

With training camp slated to start next week in England, the Wolfpack roster now stands around 20 including former England international Richard Whiting. Four or five more signings are expected including Sunday's marquee announcement.

The team also has 15 graduates of tryouts in Toronto, Philadelphia, Tampa and Jamaica, who will be invited to camp in England with the hope that a couple will earn contracts.

Perez says the club has a 10-15-year plan to improve Lamport Stadium, with new turf coming in for the 2018 season. He says the team is ahead of schedule on tickets sales and expects sellouts of some 9,000 to 10,000 per game in 2017.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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