The Self-Isolation Chronicles: Toronto Wolfpack

1. Sonny Bill Williams was once scouted by Don King.

The sporting career of Sonny Bill Williams has never been shy of stories, and his 2011 venture into professional boxing was no different. After his first fight, a victory over Australian Scott Lewis, he donated the $3,890 raised by the sale of his gloves to the Queensland flood relief. After his second fight, another victory over Tongan Alipate Liava’a, he donated his $NZ100,000 share of the TV fund to the Christchurch Earthquake appeal. It’s clear that Sonny Bill Williams’ venture into boxing was not for serious gain in the sport, therefore, more of an adventure. But he was actually rather good. The Kiwi won all seven of his professional bouts, winning the vacant New Zealand Professional Boxing Association Heavyweight Championship title in 2012, defeating Clarence Tillman III (sounds more like a member of a royal family. His initial contender, Richard Tutaki, had pulled out because he was facing serious criminal charges. That got world-renowned fight promoter Don King vying for his signature to take professional boxing more seriously and go full-time, but Williams said no.

2. Tony Gigot’s brother plays football in Russia

The Frenchman joined the Canadian club to play for free, to get himself back into the sport, moving some distance from his footballing brother. Samuel Gigot currently plays for Russian Premier Division outfit Spartak Moscow, after spells in Belgium with K.V. Kortrijk and K.A.A Gent, and began his career at local side Arles-Avignon. Tony Gigot also spent time in the youth ranks at the French football club, playing as a centre-half. Clearly the two have the nomadic gene, as Tony has seen his Rugby League career range from France, Australia, London and now Canada. He was also part of the famous Catalans Dragons side who played at FC Barcelona’s Nou Camp in 2019, defeated Wigan Warriors 33-16, playing at the famous ground before his brother Samuel. But Samuel would be the first Gigot to step out on the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium, featuring in a 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur that saw the English side eliminated from the Europa League, a year before Tony helped Catalans to the 2018 Challenge Cup at the same venue.

3. They let a professional rugby union player slip through the net

The Toronto Wolfpack ‘Last Tackle’ programme ultimately failed to achieve its intended purpose, with only Quinn Ngawati and Joe Eichner, now at Northern Pride, featuring for the first-team. Fellow try-outs Casey Clark (Underbank Rangers), Corey Knox (Queensbury) and Monte Gaddis (Shaw Cross Sharks and Red Star Belgrade) would be forced to try their luck in the amateur game, and even Ngawati had to leave the club before being re-signed. Well here’s a name that slipped their attention. Somehow, even though he has an afro. Marcus Satavu. He featured for Toronto, at centre, in their 28-26 victory over Brighouse Rangers. Since then, the former US Air Force serviceman, of Fijian descent, has gone on to earn a contract with Rugby United New York, in USA’s rugby union top flight, last year. Among his teammates was former England international Ben Foden, equally famed for trying to sing on X Factor: Celebrity in 2019.

4. They fielded an English trialist in their first game.

Among the North American contingent against Brighouse in the first trial game was Connor Clayton. A former Halifax Academy and reserves hooker, Clayton was drafted in to presumably fill up the numbers for the travelling party. He went onto earn a one-year contract with Newcastle Thunder in 2018, linking up with his Northumbria University coach Jason Payne, where he had captained the side. What makes this little-known story more interesting is that Clayton was actually the first English player to feature for the Canadian outfit, while he also scored their first-ever try, as well.

5. Quinn Ngawati left the club to pursue aviation.

He’s back with Toronto now, so all is forgiven, but home-grown talent Quinn Ngawati initially left the Wolfpack to pursue his professional development in aviation. Who knows, his current re-signing might be a work placement with Toronto and he may well become the first player-pilot for the Wolfpack. It’s Toronto Wolfpack, guys, don’t rule anything out. The 20-year-old resigning for the Wolfpack earlier this month, after two years away from the club, and will spend the first part of his return to the sport with dual-registration partners Rochdale Hornets. He became the first Canadian to feature for the club, in a 62-10 mauling of Gloucestershire All Golds in 2017, and also spent time on loan at London Skolars in League 1.