How Super League hopefuls Toronto Wolfpack and Featherstone Rovers compare

The battle for a place in the Betfred Super League for 2020 is down to two and there could hardly be more contrasting candidates.

Here the PA news agency draws comparisons between big-spending Toronto Wolfpack and home-spun part-timers Featherstone ahead of their clash in Saturday’s Million Pound Game in Ontario.

The population of Featherstone would fit into Toronto 200 times over

Toronto is the most populous city in Canada and in 2013 overtook Chicago to become the fourth largest city in North America with a population of 2.79 million. It is now estimated to be close to 3m.

In the 2011 census, Featherstone had a population of 15,244 and when Rovers reached Wembley in 1983 it is said the whole village decamped down to the capital.

Toronto is home to the Toronto Stock Exchange, the headquarters of Canada’s five largest banks and the headquarters of many large Canadian and multi-national corporations.

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A general view of the Toronto skyline, including the CN Tower (PA Images)

Essentially a mining village, Featherstone went into a steep decline in the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s as the pits began to close.

New housing developments, improved schools and plans to breathe life back into the local business community via various climate friendly projects have breathed some life back into the community since those dark days.

St Helens would be Toronto’s nearest neighbours

A flight from the UK to Toronto takes between eight and 10 hours
A flight from the UK to Toronto takes between eight and 10 hours (Steve Parsons/PA)

The distance between Toronto and Manchester is 3,400 miles as the crow flies and the fastest one-stop flight between London and the Ontario city takes close to 10 hours .

Contrast that to the seven miles that separate Featherstone from Wakefield or the 12-minute drive to Castleford.

Tradition versus young kids on the block

Rugby League – Challenge Cup – Featherstone Rovers Victory Parade – West Yorkshire
Featherstone’s open-top bus ride following their victory over Hull in the 1983 Challenge Cup final at Wembley (PA Images)

Toronto sprung into existence just three years ago but hit the ground running by gaining promotion from League One at the first attempt and only just missed out on a place in Super League 12 months ago.

Featherstone Rovers have been part of the fabric of the West Yorkshire pit village for a century.

Originally made up of local miners, the rugby league club was formed in the Railway Hotel in 1902 and re-formed in 1906.

They have won the Challenge Cup on three occasions, most recently in 1983, and won the League Championship in 1976–77.

Big-spenders and the part-timers

Toronto Wolfpack v Toulouse Olympique – Betfred Championship Summer Bash – Bloomfield Road
Ricky Leutele is one of Toronto’s two marquee players who is thought to command a salary of around £260,000 (PA Images/Richard Sellers)

Wealthy owner David Argyle has spared no expense in his bid to take Toronto into Super League.

All the players are full-time and it was reported that Cronulla centre Ricky Leutele agreed a million-dollar plus two-year deal when he joined the Wolfpack last December.

There is no doubt that the salaries of Leutele and his fellow marquee player Darcy Lussick easily eclipse that of Featherstone’s entire wage bill.

Wealth of experience in rugby league’s newest club

Toronto Wolfpack v Toulouse Olympique – Betfred Championship Summer Bash – Bloomfield Road
Toronto Wolfpack’s head coach Brian McDermott (left) and Brian Noble have seven Super League Grand Final wins between them (PA Images/Richard Sellers)

Head coach Brian McDermott, 49, who is in his first season with Toronto, and director of rugby Brian Noble, 58, have an unparalleled wealth of coaching experience going back two decades.

McDermott, who played under Noble at Bradford, guided Leeds to four Grand Final triumphs in his eight years at Headingley and coached the United States at the 2017 World Cup.

Noble took the Bulls to three Grand Final victories and three World Club Challenge triumphs and also coached Wigan, Crusaders and Salford before helping the Wolfpack get off the ground in 2017.

Featherstone coach Ryan Carr is just 31 but he, too, has guided his team to the Grand Final in his first season.

The Australian arrived in England last December on a two-year contract, with the option of a third year, but his work with Rovers has won him many admirers – he joined Leeds’ backroom staff earlier in the season – and there is speculation that he may not be at the club in 2020.

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