Written by John Davidson
Photo by Sky Sports
Brian Noble says he is shocked and disappointed that Toronto Wolfpack have decided to withdraw from the 2020 Super League season.
Noble helped set up the Wolfpack and served as the club’s director of rugby from 2016 to February this year. The former Bradford, Salford, Wigan and Great Britain coach surprisingly left his position by mutual consent five months ago.
On Monday it was announced that Toronto would not complete the rest of the campaign, which is set to resume on August 2, citing ‘overwhelming financial challenges’.
“Shocked is not an understatement,” he told Sky Sports.
“To pull out of a competition that you tried so hard for four years and spent a tremendous amount of money and invested a tremendous amount of time getting to the hallowed end that is Super League, to pull the pin like Toronto have done is very disappointing to say the least.
“It has sent shockwaves around the sporting world. There are a lot of unanswered questions.
“I think the pressure has become unbearable in relation to trying to make ends meet.”
The Wolfpack entered League 1 in 2017 and were promoted twice in three years to join Super League. The club signed former NRL star Sonny Bill Williams at the start of 2020, but now the future of the Canadian outfit is in doubt as well as their marquee players like Williams.
“It was fanatastic news for Super before the Coronavirus came about, Super League was a great place,” Noble said.
“A lot of clubs had invested heavily in some outstanding overseas players, it was exciting.
“This drops on Sonny Bill being one of them, but you’re absolutely right, the primary concern for someone like myself is the players and the staff at Toronto because I’m sure they’re sat at home scratching their heads thinking what is going to happen to my contract? Where am I going to be playing, not only next year but in the short term?
“There has been a commitment from David Argyle and Toronto that they want to be part of the competition next year, they want to maybe, if the Super League or the RFL want to be magnanimous in relation to the information they’re giving out – ie, that there might be no relegation this year, then another solution might have been found.
Toronto Wolfpack withdraw from 2020 season. pic.twitter.com/SXhBJLQ4kY
— Toronto Wolfpack (@TOwolfpack) July 20, 2020
“But I think they might find themselves pretty comp addled. It really is a difficult situation – there’s no money coming in, they can’t generate any money from Canada to support the team because there’s nobody there.
“If you’re an investor over there and you’re not seeing any product, it’s crazy times. All of these pressures, I feel, have come to a head.
“Sonny Bill wouldn’t be short of an opportunity but that’s not the issue. Everybody’s committed to the venture that was Toronto Wolfpack.
“The game has benefited massively from the exposure from this team from Toronto, and it’s very disappointing they’re not going to be around in Super League in two weeks time.”
Noble believes the sport needs to learn from Toronto’s experience and the club’s struggles.
“If rugby league is serious about expansion and there are success stories in relation to new clubs, then there has to be a better strategy than we’re seeing at the moment,” he admitted.
“I just think for 2021 if someone says yes you’re in the Super League and you’ve got the finances, and scrutinize all of that and all the people that are involved in Canada, then I still think it’s a really exciting project.
“I think we have to look at all the ramifications of this in light of the Coronavirus.”