Article by Olivier Pratte originally published in the Atmosphere magazine. Read the latest edition here.
Move over, hockey… Canada celebrates Rugby League
Describing what makes Rugby League truly Canadian‚ Eric Perez doesn’t skimp on the sport’s vibrant attributes. “It’s fast-paced‚ hard-hitting and pure‚” he says more than once before honing in on the word “people.” “The Toronto Wolfpack is a people’s team for a people’s sport, sponsored by a people’s airline‚ Air Transat.”
Having travelled extensively to the United Kingdom‚ Perez saw first-hand how Rugby League can whip people into a frenzy. And last year‚ 40 Air Transat roundtrip flights later‚ his dream of bringing that same passion to Canada came true when he introduced the Toronto Wolfpack‚ the world’s first transatlantic Rugby League team.
In March‚ the Wolfpack made its long-awaited debut in League 1‚ the third tier of the English Rugby Football League (RFL)‚ scoring an impressive 76-0 win over the London Skolars in its first game. It’s already garnering incredible buzz in the UK. With such great success‚ Perez goes so far as to claim the team will change the fabric of Canadian sport. And we’re tempted to believe him.
Having assembled captains from many other national teams‚ the Wolfpack’s world-class lineup is every rugby lover’s dream. Leading the pack is Brian Noble‚ the team’s general manager‚ who has coached Great Britain for a number of years. To Perez‚ the man is “an all-around legend.”
If all goes as planned‚ and all seems to point in that direction‚ the Toronto Wolfpack should climb up the ranks of the RFL and make it to the top of the Super League, Rugby League’s highest level, in no time. We could also see the birth of another transatlantic team on North American soil. “What could be a better rival to the French national team than Montreal?” asks Perez.
If you know what a try‚ scrum and line-out are‚ then you’re well on your way to surviving a day at “The Den‚” a.k.a.‚ Lamport Stadium‚ where Toronto Wolfpack will play its home matches. For the newbies‚ here’s a flash survival guide to the basic rules of Rugby League.
- The aim is to score more points than your opponents over an 80-minute-long match divided into two 40-minute halves.
- A try (kind of like a touchdown‚ when a player touches the ground with the ball over the opponent’s goal line) is worth four points and can be converted to six points with a kick.
- A penalty goal is worth two points‚ and a drop goal (kicking the ball over the crossbar and between the goalposts) is worth one point.
- The ball is always passed backwards (never forward!)‚ and each 13-player team has it for six plays (or tackles)‚ after which it must be handed over to the opposition.
- If it’s still not clear‚ just yell out “Knock-on!” or “Hands in the ruck!” and you’ll fit right in!
Players to keep an eye on
- Position: Centre: Team Captain
- Height + weight: 6’4”, 205 lb
- Nickname: Hally
- Favorite destination: Cancun‚ but I’m planning on taking my little girl to Orlando to go to Walt Disney World in the near future.
- Pre-game superstitions or rituals: I like to have a Red Bull before warming up‚ and I always wear a pair of trunks under my shorts.
- Position: Prop
- Height + weight: 6’, 231 lb
- Nickname: Fui
- Favorite destination: Tonga. For heritage reasons.
- Pre-game superstitions or rituals: Eat right‚ sleep well‚ and always pray before a match.
- Position: Halfback
- Height + weight: 5’8”, 131 lb
- Nickname: Jacksie
- Favorite destination: Too many to choose from‚ but if I had to pick just one‚ it would be Barcelona. Nice weather‚ food and beach.
- Pre-game superstitions or rituals: My main superstition is having a routine. I love keeping everything exactly the same leading up to a game.