We are nearing the end of the first ever Toronto Wolfpack year and some things still amaze me. Their 36-18 victory over Whitehaven put them one win away from being declared League One Champs and more importantly, promotion to the Championship League next season. That was the ultimate goal at the beginning of the year and the lads are close enough to taste it.
Fuifui Moimoi laughing it up with The Wolfpack Pack (sans onesies)
Trouble is, the last step is always the hardest and there is a very determined, very focused Barrow Raiders team trying to snatch it all away. It should be a very intense battle as Barrow’s stingy defence allows less than 17 pts per game. More impressive? One of those games was the 70-2 whupping at the paws of this very same Wolfpack. Remove that game and that average drops to 14. Speaking of that game, you know the visitors will be hyped to give a better account of themselves after that. This game should be a dandy and if the hometown team wins, Liberty Village will be partying well into the night.
Now if the opposite happens as is possible, what then? How will the Wolfpack fans respond to that? I have a feeling that win or lose, this upcoming game will help better define the character of this fanbase. As we wait to find out on Saturday, we could take a quick peek at what the fanbase looks like right now. Let’s start with attendance.
Rugby League + great weather + beer + great fans = Great time
One has to be satisfied, if not ecstatic with an above 6000 average fans per game in the first year. So there is a very good niche of people who do support the team on a regular basis. Fans are creatures of habit so you begin to recognize a lot of the same people game in and game out. 6000 may be a great number this year, but if it remains static for the next 2-3 years, it will certainly lose its luster.
Second factor is how the fans treat the referees. There hasn’t been much to gripe about this year because for most of us, we are still learning the game. Plus, who yells at a referee when you are constantly winning by 40 points? Only real jerks do that and there are never any jerks at a sporting event in – oh wait, nevermind. Referee’s are always going to be chirped aren’t they? This can’t be helped… just do it respectfully. (wink)
Coventry Bears players loving the admiration from Toronto fans
Last factor is how do the fans treat visiting teams. Having watched games on both sides of the Atlantic I can honestly say that I don’t think any of the players who have played at Lamport have ever seen anything like this and they have never been better treated than this. You can see by the genuine smiles on their faces how much it means to them. They must feel like rock stars going around shaking hands, taking selfies, banging on the Wolfpack drum and of course, at the end of the day, having a pint with a few hundred people who all have one thing in common. They love rugby league.
In all of those north end, post game parties, I don’t think I ever heard the score mentioned once or there being any arguments or even an angry word. I’m sure there were, you can’t have that many people around alcohol on so many occasions and not have at least one person say something angry. But I haven’t see it. The Den has not only been phenomenally peaceful, it has been incredibly positive and joyful atmosphere.
Let’s keep it that way.
Coventry Bears owner Alan Robinson (left in Wolfpack jersey) chatting with Toronto CEO Eric Perez (centre) after the game, over a pint with fans in the north end.
I am not sure what’s going to happen this Saturday other than it will be an intense game. Let’s keep our cool. This could very well be the biggest game of the year in League One and therefore I anticipate there will be many people following it from around the world. OK, maybe not the world, but from the UK and Australia for certain. They won’t only be seeing the game, but they will also get a chance to see how Torontonians have taken to their game.
I am curious to see which side of Toronto shows up this Saturday. If we lose or if the ref makes mistakes will we show the dark side? Similar to when we threw trash on Roger’s baseball field one playoff. Or will that respectful, rugby league loving side show up? You know, those Wolfpack fans who have endeared themselves to not only opposing players but yes, even to even referees too.
What else can you do but smile and say ‘Cheers!’ when a fan gives you their beer?
Finally, my only other hope is that one day people look back upon this game and say it helped grow the sport of rugby league… everywhere.
For more sights and sounds on the Toronto Wolfpack visit https://wolfcast.ca/
Photos by Chris Papaioannou
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