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The future of rugby league In Canada

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Roar Guru
10th April, 2019
11

If I’m the first Canadian to write for The Roar then I hope I’ve made a good impression.

My name is Avry Lewis-McDougall. In 2016, I fell in love with the idea of rugby league putting roots at the professional level in Canada with the Toronto Wolfpack and like many followed their journey in England’s Rugby Football League starting in the third tier, League 1.

Fast forward to 2019 and the Wolfpack sit on top of the Betfred Championship and are poised to enter Super League in 2020, with possibly a League 1 team in Ottawa also.

The Wolfpack have made their games affordable, and it’s friendly to fans of all ages. The Wolfpack brought North American style entertainment to the sport in an intimate atmosphere. Lamport Stadium for all three seasons has been home and a stadium of under 10,000 seats has been an excellent fit so far.

Rugby league is easy for most Canadians to follow, it’s a fast game and the fact that the Wolfpack have had success has been absolutely beneficial to that growth. The Wolfpack have even joined forces with Ontario’s Union governing body to get people out to try both codes of the game.

London Broncos defeat Toronto Raptors to make it back into the Super League.

Toronto taking on London. (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The franchise is endearing itself to Ontario and owner David Argyle has had very ambitious goals. Currently, the Wolfpack starts its season playing overseas but, in the future there could be games in Dublin, Copenhagen, and Barcelona.

I personally love the idea of the Wolfpack truly becoming a global team but the franchise has faced concerns when it comes to their development of Canadian players and the future of the domestic game.

Enter the Ottawa franchise, the founder of the Wolfpack, Eric Perez is in talks to relocate the Hemel Stags to the nation’s capital.

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If successful, the second Canadian franchise in the RFL would take a different approach than their provincial cousins.

Perez spoke about not trying to rush Ottawa to Super League and using the team to truly grow the game in this country. Toronto hasn’t truly used Canadian talent, Ottawa can fill that void to give homegrown talent a place to play.

Rugby league has formal competitions outside of Ontario in Alberta and British Columbia, these programs should work with Perez to get their players chances to play professionally and playing meaningful minutes.

Off-season camps in other Canadian cities will also be huge for discovering talent in markets where Union is still the dominant code.

For all we know, Canada’s version of Latrell Mitchell or David Fusitu’a could be in Edmonton or Calgary.

A big step for growth was also made in March. Last month, The Canada Rugby League Association announced that Canadians would be able to subscribe to WatchNRL to stream every game.

The partnership will provide discount subscriptions Canadian Rugby League fans but will also though 20 percent commission work to grow the development of the junior game in Canada.

Letting people in Canada learn even more about the game, not just NRL games itself but also off-field content such as shows like Late Night With Matty Johns and League Life will go along ways in educating this side of the world on League in more ways than one. Maybe one day Canadian based NRL/Super League studio shows could become a reality.

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Canada is a market that can handle more rugby league, let us show you.