Why Matty Russell thinks Toronto Wolfpack should get another chance
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The outfit pulled out of their inaugural season in the top flight in July when Australian owner David Argyle announced he no longer had the resources to fund them.
The 11 other Super League clubs will today receive a report with recommendations on whether they should be readmitted or not, ahead of a vote on Friday.
And Wiganer Russell is keeping his fingers crossed the Wolfpack, under potential new ownership of Toronto businessman Carlo LiVolsi, gets the green light to return to the top-flight next season.
“I’ve seen the potential the club has and what it can bring to Super League,” said Russell, a former Ince Rose Bridge junior who launched his professional career with Wigan in 2011 before moving to the Gold Coast and Warrington.
“I spoke to some of the Toronto lads before I’d signed there and after hearing what they said, I thought, ‘Surely it can’t be as good as they say’.
“But I got there and the Toronto fans really get behind you – it’s hard to explain the atmosphere and how good it is.
“They love it and it’s got the potential to be so much bigger.
“They were already getting big crowds in the Championship - and what you’ve got to remember is they’ve not even had any Super League games yet.
“Sonny Bill Williams would have brought in so many fans if we’d had a chance to have a home game this year.
“Imagine being able to market a game against Sam Tomkins and Israel Folau, or Blake Austin or Bevan French?
“It would be massive.”
LiVolsi wants Toronto to get a slice of central funding if they are allowed back.
He outlined his plans to re-launch the club during an online meeting with Super League executive chairman Robert Elstone and Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer earlier this month. But a decision on whether to readmit them will be made by the Super League board – essentially the club owners – on Friday morning.
There is still some resentment over the way Toronto pulled out of the league just days before the scheduled August 2 re-start and bitterness grew over revelations that the players have not been paid since May.
“It’s been a tough time for us all,” said Scotland international Russell.
“We were training and getting ready to get back playing Super League when we had a random Zoom call to say he was pulling the plug. It was a huge shock to everyone.
“We’ve not been paid since May 10, all we’ve had is £2,000 hardship fund from the RFL, so it’s been a struggle.”
LiVolsi has insisted he will pay the wages in full if the club are re-instated and the GMB trade union which represents rugby league players on Friday said they had brokered a deal worth in the region of £1million.
LiVolsi has spoken of his plans to take the club to new heights and Toronto captain Josh McCrone and coach Brian McDermott have both issued pleas for the club to be given a second chance.
A move to restore Super League to a 12-team competition could count in their favour.
“We are confident we will get a fair hearing,” Toronto’s UK business manager Martin Vickers told the PA news agency.
“We know we made a strong submission and trust the Super League board will make the right decision for Toronto Wolfpack.”
Rimmer has indicated his support for the new club but Elstone is thought to have strong reservations and the odds appear to be stacked against the Canadians.
LiVolsi says he would not be interested in joining the Championship or League 1, insisting it is “Super League or bust” and, at this late stage, the club would be unlikely to find other owners willing to start the process over again.