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Toronto Wolfpack promoted to Super League for first time

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Agence France-Presse

Toronto Wolfpack have been promoted to Rugby League’s Super League for the first time after a 24-6 win over Featherstone in the Million Pound Game in Canada.

The Wolfpack were strong favourites to complete a remarkable journey through the lower leagues to England’s top tier after winning the second tier Championship by 12 points this season.

However, they trailed in the playoff final to unfancied Featherstone 6-4 at half-time.

The Canadians, though, bounced back with tries from Blake Wallace, Bodene Thompson and Joe Mellor after the break that ultimately ensured a comfortable and historic victory for the Wolfpack.

Toronto, formed in 2016 with the aim of reaching the Super League within five years, achieved their mission at the second attempt after suffering a shock 4-2 defeat by London Broncos 12 months ago.

Their promotion will see English head coach Brian McDermott return to the Super League, a competition that he has won seven times as a player and coach.

In his first year at the helm, Toronto dropped just one game, finishing the season with a 28-1 record.

“The experience and the event here is out of this world,” said McDermott, who won four Grand Finals with Leeds before being sacked last year.

“It’s brilliant,” he said. “I had this feeling when I coached Harlequins for five years. I knew I was involved with something very big. It’s a special day for sure.”

McDermott said the arrival in the top tier of Toronto — whose Raptors captured the NBA championship last season and which Major League Baseball’s Blue Jays and Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC call home — is a good thing for Super League.

“Toronto is a mega sporting city,” he said. “We’re part of that, we hope to have a higher profile now. It’s just a fantastic story and Super League needs to be able to sell a final to potential investors on a TV deal which says that it is going to be competed by big city teams.

“Because in five years time if the Super League finals and the Challenge Cup finals are going to be competed by small towns in the north of England — it’s a fantastic story, Featherstone is a fantastic story, so is Salford.

“But where are we going to sell that to is the interesting point. If we’re competing in a final in five years and we’re sat around a table with the mega sponsors and say one of our teams start with Toronto, and the other is London, Barcelona or New York, that’s how the game grows.

“I know there’s a few people opposed to us being in the comp, but we can’t please everyone can we?”

Several Wolfpack players will also be returning to Super League action, including Gareth O’Brien, Matty Russell, Jon Wilkin and Anthony Mullally.

But the match marked a farewell for Fijian international Ashton Sims, who announced in August he would retire at the end of Toronto’s campaign.