Since beginning its grand adventure into North America, rugby league has enjoyed success along the way.
Within four years of inception, Toronto Wolfpack have reached Super League and attracted five-figure crowds. Media exposure has increased and soon, franchises from Ottawa and New York should join them in their quest to make the sport a force.
But dissenters of rugby league’s latest expansion attempt cite the lack of talent that has been produced in the region since Toronto burst on the scene. Just one Canadian, Quinn Ngawati, and one American in Joe Eichner have ever played for the Wolfpack. Ngawati is the only local talent on their current roster.
In that sense, Monte Gaddis is the athlete rugby league is yearning for.
A former American football linebacker, Gaddis had trials with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns after being named as the Defensive MVP at Towson University in 2013.
Though a contract never came to fruition, he earned a professional contract in Poland with the Gdynia Seahawks, followed by a stint in the Indoor Football League with the Iowa Barnstormers.
But now, his focus is on cracking rugby league, having first discovered the great game following a phone call from former player turned actor Adam Fogerty.
“He told me he heard about my story and thought I would be a great athlete to convert over to league,” Gaddis told TotalRL.
“I’ve always wanted to play Rugby 7s, just from hearing about Miles Craig, Carlin Isles and Perry Baker. With the Wolfpack, I trialled three times, in Toronto, Philadelphia and Tampa, improving at each one. That’s how I had the opportunity to compete for a contract in the United Kingdom along with 17 other trialists.”
Gaddis was part of Toronto’s team of North Americans that played, and beat, Brighouse Rangers in the Wolfpack’s first-ever game, made up entirely of trialists.
Despite not being handed a contract, his desire to crack the game has never waned since. He remained in the UK for another three months to learn more about the game, playing for Shaw Cross Sharks in the NCL division. While there, he played in the Rotterdam 9s for the Amsterdam Cobras.
His next stop was in Serbia as he represented Red Star Belgrade, scoring seven tries and making over 100 tackles as they went undefeated during his time with the club.
Nowadays, he’s back in his native Cleveland, Ohio, a few hundred miles south-east of the Canadian border, but his desire to make it as a professional rugby league player is as fierce as ever. As a result, he posts updates of his training almost daily on social media in an attempt to keep his name in the spotlight.
— Gaddis Guidance (@MonteGaddis) June 10, 2020
That has reaped its rewards, in the past few months, League 1 outfit Rochdale Hornets have offered him a trial, as well as the Ottawa Aces, who were so impressed with the 28-year-old that they have made an exception for him to join their Canadian-only trials which will take place once Covid-19 permits.
“The motivation is seeing my environment, coming from a low-income area, I wanted to show the youth and the people in my city what it was to never give up. Most people know me from playing American Football and working on my shot to play with the Cleveland Browns, but I wanted more than that, my legacy was not finished.
“You have to think outside the box and go hard, by all means, that’s just my attitude every day. I am in a position to motivate the people in my community, athletes with the same background as me and just people who need some motivation to take that leap of faith. So I am taking the opportunity to show the world nothing comes to a sleeper but dreams. I’m still going when others would have given up on their dreams.
“Of course the NRL and Super League are the ending goals, but both Ottawa and Rochdale would be a perfect blessing for me to get my career back on chugging.”
How the next step in his career pans out remains to be seen. But he makes a valid point. Rugby league needs him as much as he needs rugby league. Given the potential North America provides, you could argue there’s more for the game to gain from success than for Gaddis himself.
“I know my impact off the pitch will be tremendous to any club that signs me,” he said.
“I want all the youth to know about the sport here in USA and be one of the biggest and first ambassadors of the game. This is how game will grow!”
Coaches and talent experts believe North America boasts thousands of athletes from the continent’s most prominent sports to play rugby league. Gaddis, as of now, is the prime example of that.