It’s a fixture that Andrew Henderson never imagined he’d be taking part in – and it’s one every rugby league fan will have surely never imagined they’d see at all!
London versus Toronto in the sport’s oldest competition, the Challenge Cup.
However, on Friday night, the Wolfpack project faces its sternest test yet as Paul Rowley’s men head to the capital to take on Henderson’s Broncos, who are arguably as ambitious as Toronto themselves.
For Henderson, it promises to be a special occasion – not least because London’s 3G pitch should bring the best out of two sides that notoriously love to play attractive rugby if conditions suit.
“Look at their playing roster; it’s a Championship team on paper and I think it’s going to make for a really evenly-fought contest on Friday,” he told TotalRL. “It’ll be a cracker; we’ve both got excellent talent at our disposal and it should be a cracking spectacle.
“You’ve seen in some of their games like Siddal and Whitehaven that those real heavy pitches can be a leveller. Toronto play a similar style to us so hopefully we can produce a great game.”
Henderson also admits that for him at least, the Toronto concept certainly has legs – although hopefully not enough to dump his side out of the cup at the first hurdle. “It’s definitely not a game I imagined I’d ever be taking part in! It’s exciting because I’m in favour of Toronto being in the structure; it’s not costing the RFL anything to have them in so it’s win-win for me,” he admitted.
“I’m all for it; nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that. I’d have never envisaged it growing up in Australia that I’d be in a London v Toronto game but it’s brilliant.”
After a somewhat surprising defeat to Halifax last weekend, the game also gives Henderson and London the opportunity to alter focus and refresh following what had been – prior to last weekend’s loss at The Shay at least – a strong start to 2017.
“This has come at a really good time for us. Seven out of our top 25 are injured at the moment and while that’s no excuse, it’s a fact that we’ve got a few pivotal people out. We’ve got enough quality to be playing better than what we have been.
“This is a great opportunity because we were disappointing last weekend at it takes the pressure of the Championship off us. All we’ve done is worry about ourselves, not Toronto.”
Teams gunning for promotion are often by their own admission left to rank the cup low on their priority list, and Henderson admits it is a dilemma.
He said: “It’s a tough one to weigh up, the cup. There’s a bonus with the excitement it brings because I know from experience, having been in Sheffield’s run to the quarter-finals, it can be great.
“But our main focus is to get promotion to Super League – although you could argue that getting on a good cup run and beating good opposition along the way prepares you for that challenge.”
However, should London become the first team to beat the uber-ambitious Wolfpack on Friday night, London will then be eyeing up a cup run of their own – all those years on from the glorious run to Wembley in the 1990s.