Brian McDermott believes Toronto Wolfpack will make a return to Rugby League at some time in the future after revealing plans for a reunion game later this year.
McDermott, the club coach when they were kicked out of Super League last year, has revealed plans to stage a game in the summer to give fans a chance to relive the gameday experience that saw the club average 8,000 attendances in just three years.
It’s been several months since the club was cast aside by rival clubs, but McDermott still has complete belief in the concept.
“I don’t care what was printed in what report or by who,” he said.
“For those that went there, they saw it had a huge amount of interest, a huge amount of following. When I say Toronto Wolfpack will come back, this isn’t some blind, naive hope.
This is based on evidence, based on facts and based on recent events. I’ve been there when there were 10,000 people and that wasn’t just a one off. When you are averaging 8,000 a game, that’s not something you just turn away from.
“Will it come back? Yeah, it will come back, there’ll be a whole host of decisions that need to be taken and it won’t be an easy process, but I don’t think we should give up on it.
“When I came in there were lots of plans, but it was a club obsessed with gaining promotion to Super League and didn’t really have any investment, systems or infrastructure to develop the game. But bear in mind the unfair rules set against them from day one.
“The reason I’m saying all that in detail is I’ve seen it on the ground and regard myself more qualified than those who wrote the report saying Rugby League in Canada isn’t viable.
“I reject that statement. I don’t think they’re qualified to say that, but I am and I’m telling you that I’ve seen it and it can be developed over there, and not just in a small way, but in a big way.”
The game, which McDermott says will be against a ‘relevant’ opponent, would initially be a ‘one-off’.
But he hopes it could be the beginning or a larger revival for the club.
“There are a few reasons for doing this, to keep the relevance of Toronto Wolfpack and awareness of Rugby League in Canada high and to get a crowd, to put a game on for the fans who never really got a chance to say goodbye to Toronto Wolfpack.
“They are nice to-dos, but the main reason is that I don’t believe Toronto Wolfpack to be dead. I don’t believe that myself. I do believe the game needs to go beyond and I do believe Toronto Wolfpack will come back. When it does, I don’t want it to be a case of the brand not being seen in the public eye for such a long period of time. Keeping the brand relevant is key.”
He continued: “From my experience as a player and a coach, Rugby League needs something outside of the North of England; that is just a fact.
“What you’d hope for is a team outside the north that can be formed, be successful and generate interest and open the game to larger markets and audiences and that was absolutely there. I don’t agree with what was done, clearly.
“If there’s a potential new owner out there, and there are some, then me keeping the name and brand relevant is key to this, as well as all the other reasons I give.”
McDermott also welcomed the news that former owner David Argyle had reached a settlement with players over unpaid wages.
“What David Argyle did was wholly unacceptable, but on another level he has always maintained he would square people away. He made a pledge a few days after stepping away that at some stage he would level on 2020 salaries.
“It’s taken a long time; he himself has gone through a nightmare of a time but come back unsolicited, he’s picked the phone up to the players and GMB Union and said ‘I have funds to pay back some of what I owe’. That’s a big call from David; he could have easily downed tools and ridden off into the sunset.
“It doesn’t mean he’s forgiven for everything, but give him some credit for doing right by some of the staff.”
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