Leeds Rhinos: Rugby league in Canada is an exciting prospect for our game – Ablett

Brian Noble.
Brian Noble.
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INTRODUCING A Canadian team into League One next year is one of the most bizarre things I have heard for a long time, but having thought about it, I think it’s a really exciting prospect.

There’s been rumours about a new team in Toronto for a while and I know of players who have been approached to play for them, but I didn’t really believe it until the announcement this week.

From what I have heard, the Wolfpack will play matches in four- or five-game blocks, staying over here for a month or so and then having a run of games at home.

That’s nothing new in Canada, apparently. North American teams in most sports are used to long road trips, so it’s something the fans will accept and won’t seem unusual to them, like it does to us over here.

The Toronto team are going to pay travel costs for teams going out to Canada and they have wealthy investors who are willing to put the money in to make a success of it, therefore it isn’t a financial risk for our clubs, or the Rugby Football League (RFL).

The idea is for English teams to fly out on Thursday, play on Saturday and return the following evening, which is not that different to when Super League teams go to Perpignan now – or Championship ones to Toulouse – though obviously it’s a longer flight.

It’s great news and it has given rugby league a lot of publicity this week, which can only be a good thing.

I am all for expanding the game and I really would love the new venture to be a success.

The big positive is this doesn’t look like another short-term thing, which we’ve seen in the past.

The important thing for me is they are starting at the bottom, in League One.

They are not being parachuted straight into Super League, so there’s no pressure on them to spend up to the salary cap and to splash out cash they can’t afford on trying to compete with big, established clubs.

A lot of the teams in League One are new at semi-professional level, so it will be much more of an even playing field. I am not one of those people who thinks rugby league should only be played in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.

I would love to see the game expand and thrive all over the world.

If there’s a businessman willing to back a new club with hard cash – which seems to be the case here – that’s a good thing.

The Canadians have got good people involved and that’s another positive sign.

Brian Noble is one of the smartest men in the game.

He is going to be director of rugby, with Paul Rowley as coach.

Rowley did a fantastic job at Leigh and I have read that Jamie Peacock was thinking about coming out of retirement to play for them, though he’s decided against it.

If they are attracting interest from people like that, they must be doing things right.

Brian Noble and Paul Rowley are astute people and they would not get involved if they didn’t think they could make a success of it.

I have to admit it is going to be a challenge for players on the British teams.

National One is part-time and they will have to take at least a couple of days off work to be able to play a game in Toronto, but if I was at that level I would be really excited by the prospect. You don’t get to go abroad with your team-mates very often and it is a fantastic opportunity to travel somewhere new.

Hopefully they can get the marketing right and make it something fans would like to attend as well.

They had a big launch this week in Toronto, as well as one in Leeds and, apparently, the city mayor was at the one over there, so they are being taken seriously.

They have got an impressive stadium to play at and crowds of nearly 10,000 have turned up for international games, who I am sure will be keen to watch a winning club team.

I know some people will be pessimistic and say it is not going to work, but I think everyone in the sport should get behind it and help make it a success. It’s a fantastic idea, it will spread our sport to a new audience and it is great to see people willing to invest in rugby league.

I am absolutely for it and I wish them all the best.