It’s been dressed up as the newest, biggest and most exciting rivalry in rugby league.
But Paul Rowley says as far as Toronto Wolfpack are concerned, there is no grudge – or, in his own words, ‘no feeling’ – with the Centurions ahead of their mouthwatering Championship opener on Sunday.
Rowley will return to the Leigh Sports Village for a game this weekend for the first time since resigning as Centurions coach on the eve of the 2016 Championship season.
Inevitably, Rowley was asked plenty of questions about his – and many of his players, who are former Leigh employees themselves – relationship with the club in the buildup to Sunday’s game. He, however, insists the Wolfpack are not buying into any sort of a rivalry.
He said: “It’s funny, because my players have left that all behind. It was so long ago, we don’t look back.
“From our point of view, there’s no feeling there at all. We go over there and we don’t look back. That’s not being rude, we’re just happy doing what we’re doing and living our lives and enjoying ourselves. It’s not a difficult theory to understand.
“I don’t do any social media or anything like that, I don’t read the press, but our boys do. They’re chipping in at me saying people have said things and to be fair, we just giggle and have a laugh. There’s no grudge at all. We’ll turn up, play and leave. Win, lose or draw, if anyone is having a battle with us, there’s no battle back from us. We’ll be respectful and if we win, we’ll be humble. If we lose, we’ll take it in good spirit as well. It’s sport at the end of the day. No dramas.”
Rowley did, however, admit a manufactured rivalry was good for the profile of the Championship – as the game arguably takes centre-stage above the Super League game between Widnes and Catalans on Sunday.
He said: “I think it’s been fired up, and if the firing up of it makes a rivalry there – which is bizarre, given there’s 3,000-odd miles between the two places – then great. Our owner will love it if there’s more people being driven to our social media!”
The Wolfpack are expected to handle the Championship as well as they did League 1 in their inaugural season in 2017. And Rowley admits he’s bowled over by how the Canadian city has taken rugby league to its heart in such a short space of time.
He said: “I have been surprised by it. On day one, there didn’t look to be too many supporters there but I quickly realised they turn up fashionably late!
“Because they’re used to baseball and other sports going on for hours, they time their entrance! In game one, we were 20 points up and two brawls in and they started rolling in! But by half-time, there’s 7,500 in there and I was blown away. The following game, we met a guy who’d got a full-on Wolfpack tattoo on his leg! The whole buy-in and the passion is incredible: they love their sport, and what’s not to love about rugby league?”
And despite all the talk of a Leigh-Toronto rivalry, Rowley does admit one thing: Sunday’s game is the two best sides in the second-tier squaring off.
He insisted: “It’s the two best teams, definitely. Us losing the three players recently has dampened things for us, but Leigh are very much a well put together outfit on and off the field.”