Brian McDermott calls on rugby league to be ‘brave, dynamic and willing to change’ amid Toronto decision

Brain McDermott hopes Toronto’s stay of execution is proof that attitudes towards the Wolfpack’s value to Rugby League are changing.

But the Toronto head coach believes the importance of the decision on the club’s future is the biggest since the sport’s decision to move from winter to summer rugby and he has pleaded with decision-makers to prove the sport is determined to grow the game moving forward.

“First and foremost I want to give people at the club a huge amount of credit to hold our nerve and get to this stage,” McDermott told League Express.

“When David Argyle made the decision pretty much overnight and shocked everyone that he was going to step away and not do what Neil Hudgell did, and credit to him to give his club the financial time to sort out another owner. David made a decision to step away and leave us in it.

“We were in freefall, had to stabilise ourselves and were instructed to come up with a new owner, a business plan and strategy for Super League after terminating our participation agreement. In such a short and intense time we’ve got to a stage of a credible owner (Carlo LiVolsi), put out a business plan that we recognise needs adjustment and improvement, but we’re really keen to remain.

“My thoughts were that we’d never get to this stage because of bad feeling and sentiment created by David Argyle and his ownership of the club that left such a big and bad taste. But now, we’re in a position to allow Carlo LiVolsi to present to all clubs his vision of how Toronto can grow and add value to Rugby League.”

McDermott continued: “It wasn’t the smoothest run club, we admit and concede that we didn’t get it all right. We could be and should be a better run club than that, but I don’t think that’s a reason to not have us in.

“I know that part of the remit of Super League is to do the research and whether it’s sustainable over there. I don’t know what that entails, but a team with minimal overseas away fans have been generating big crowds in League 1 and the Championship of eight, nine and ten thousand.

“Rugby League works in Toronto. I’m not going to say it’s one of the big brothers, but there’s a big piece of evidence to back it up that in a population of 6.1 million people who live in and around Toronto, 1.7 million have filled a form out to say they are avid Wolfpack fans.

“That’s 1.7 million made aware of Super League. I’m not a businessman or corporate manager but I can see how that would make sense to people, to have 1.7 million people watching their club and their brand.

“The sport made a massive decision to move from winter to summer and it’s not as big as that, but it’s the biggest decision since then.

“I understand their concerns. I love the game as much as they do, I understand that if this falls over in 18 months because Carlo doesn’t have the acumen, then it’s seriously bad. But the growth of the game could be huge for our sport. Not so much because it’s Toronto, more where our sport goes from here if we get knocked back on opinions and not evidence.

“For sure, Carlo has to convince everybody and prove he can sustain this and that’s what he’ll do. If he does come up with the goods then it’s a massive decision for the future of the sport.

“I’ve been thinking about this and everyone believes the sport should be bigger than it is now. To do that, we have to be dynamic, brave and willing to change because we all recognise it’s not currently growing.

“So do we dare to be dynamic, brave and willing to change? If we get a no, I’m concerned that it confirms our fears.”