Before the start of the Super League season, Hull FC made history by being the first team to play the newly formed Toronto Wolfpack side. FanaticHull spoke to the Toronto CEO Eric Perez after that game about their progress and a link with Hull.
What has been the response back in Canada about the concept and birth of The Wolfpack?
“Oh, it’s huge. The first Transatlantic team, so we’re all super proud. We don’t just have ice-hockey in Canada, we have baseball, basketball, Canadian and American football, soccer. We have everything.”
You’re a huge sporting nation, do you think people will take to Rugby League?
“There’s no sport better suited to the Canadian psyche than rugby league! It’s hard-hitting, it’s got finesse, it’s got skills, pace and it’s got some fisticuffs. That’s what we like. I think that in ten years, it’ll be one of the top three sports in the country.”
Were you surprised that you gave Hull FC such a close game?
“Yes, to be really honest with you. I mean, they won the Challenge Cup, they’re a Super League team. We shouldn’t have been anywere near them and we could have won that game or at least a draw, but not surprised at the way those guys trained together. They’re like a family.
Regarding youth development, what are going to be the challenges back home?
“Our first job is to inspire. Let us first inspire people to love rugby league – We want the kids to watch and within a generation you will see players from all over the US and Canada coming into the RFL.”
On that note, it’s been announced that a team from Florida are looking to be the next transatlantic team to produce a RL team – Do you see that as a positive for the Wolfpack?
“Sure! The more North American teams, the better. Jacksonville already has a team in the US leagues. From what I know, it’s the most followed rugby team in the US and it’ll be interesting to see what their bid is.”
Logistically, how hard is it to play and train in two different countries?
“We’re the only team in the world doing it, it’s more difficult on the admin side than the playing side, that’s for sure. We’re getting to down and after a year it will be pretty routine, but we have two markets you have to focus on. We’re learning as we go along. On the playing side we have great facilities here and in Toronto.
Are you surprised at the response from the UK about the club?
“It’s been overwhelming on the whole and I think the game needed this. The sport is full of terrible stories, like what’s going on with Bradford and all the other clubs that nearly folded – Sheffield, York, so it’s time for a change and time to explore new markets that can bring in more commercial value and new fans into the game, plus we’re doing it right. We got great coaching staff, Brian Noble, Paul Rowley, Kurt Haggerty, our doctors and physios from Championship and Premiership football teams. Our friendly against Hull was televised; that’s never been done before. People are saying, ‘these guys are alright’.”
What’s your expectations for the first year in League One?
“To be promoted.”
“Oh yeah, for sure. Our ethos is Commitment to Excellence, anything less is a failure!”
How was your experience at Hull FC this weekend?
“Excellent, look, we could play Hull again in the Challenge Cup this year! If we do, we could get 7 points more and win.
I just wanna say, the Hull FC fans have been the number one supporters of this whole thing with the Wolfpack. The second this thing happened, the pure positivity when we signed Richard [Whiting], Reece [Dean} and even Craig Hall, everyone from Hull said, “Hey, wow! What an adventure,” not like “this is terrible, they’re poaching our players”. No, everyone sees it as a great thing for the game and I believe that Hull fans don’t need to get petty over what players we signed. It’s just been a breath of fresh air, everytime we’ve done something, Hull fans have been right behind us. We’ve definitely established ourselves as Hull FC fans’ second favourite team and Hull FC are definitely our favourite Super League club right now. Hull fans are the best fans in rugby league.
If one thing Canadians love to do, it’s get involved in banter. I appreciate you guys getting behind us and the Hull fans that came out to see us. I’d love to make this an annual game and when we get to the stage where we get a good band of travelling supporters, hopefully there can be some kind of amicable arrangement between the two clubs for you to come out to Canada.”
(Let me tell you, this guy loves to talk, loves the sport and can sell his club. I almost bought a season pass and flight to Toronto). – @rugbydiscipline