Toronto Wolfpack director of rugby Brian Noble believes the club can transform Super League into a wealthy competition capable of cherry-picking the best players from the NRL and rugby union.
The Wolfpack have made headlines around the world with the stunning recruitment of Sonny Bill Williams on a record deal for either rugby code and club bosses have outlined further bold ambitions in a new documentary on Toronto’s three-year journey to Super League.
“If we get half of a half of one per cent of the market in Toronto, you watch the Super League explode,” Noble said.
Wolfpack majority owner David Argyle revealed he and other investors had already sunk CAD$21 million into the club but they believe the opportunities in Toronto and North America will ensure far greater returns.
“One of the pitchers at the Blue Jays is on more money than the entire Super League,” Noble said of Hyun-Jin Ryu, who recently signed an US$80 million, four-year deal with the Toronto MLB franchise.
“If we can just capture some of that enthusiasm and bring that across to the UK – that kind of money – then we go to the NRL and say ‘I’d like someone from the top shelf, not the bottom shelf’ and we can go back into rugby union like we used to do and say ‘I’ll have him, him and him’. All of a sudden you watch the bums on seats go up.”
Even though they had to climb their way into Super League by winning the League One and Championship competitions, the Wolfpack have attracted a following from many countries and have been drawing capacity home crowds at Lamport Stadium, which holds up to 10,000.
“Toronto is a global brand, rugby is a global brand and what we do is join them,” Argyle told the “Destination Super League” documentary broadcast in the UK.
“You look at the [Maple] Leafs [in the NHL], you look at the Raptors [NBA], you look at TFC [MLS], you look at the [Blue] Jays, these are the biggest franchises in North America and we are in the same group. Of course, we are a little brother but we are sitting at the table.
“The product is world class, it is quality, and people have already got behind it. Who would have thought three years ago that you would now have ticket touts selling our $20 tickets for $200 outside the stadium to people who want to get in.”
More than 1000 players attended a series of try-outs in eight cities across Canada and the United States in 2016 and Noble predicted the Wolfpack would eventually develop North American talent for the game.
However, the former Great Britain coach cautioned it could take 20 years – a similar timeframe before London Broncos and Melbourne Storm began producing any home-grown players.
Argyle, Noble and Wolfpack founder Eric Perez identified Williams as potentially being as significant to the club and code as David Beckham was for LA Galaxy and the MLS.
“Behind the scenes we talked about Sonny Bill for two years. Our ownership group is smart,” Noble said.
Behind the scenes we talked about Sonny Bill for two years. Our ownership group is smart.Brian Noble
McDermott flew to Japan during the Rugby World Cup to meet Williams and was immediately convinced the 34-year-old dual code superstar would have a massive impact on the fortunes of the Wolfpack.
“He wanted to know how we attack and how we defend, it was great,” McDermott said.
“He verbally machine gunned me for about two hours about who we were, what do we do, how does it work, what does the team look like and what we were our chances.”
The former Leeds premiership-winning mentor assured Williams the Wolfpack weren’t planning to just make up the numbers in the Super League next season.
“I believe we can win a grand final, I genuinely do,” McDermott said.