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Opinion

Toronto Wolfpack recruitment needs work in future

27 Apr 20, 11:00AM 0 Comments

Written by Zack Wilson

Photo by Getty Images

Before Covid 19 brought Super League to a grinding halt, it was clear that Toronto Wolfpack had problems when it came to recruitment.

Their squad was ravaged by injury and looked far too small, with too many veteran journeymen gobbling up space on the salary cap and not enough players in reserve.

The entire structure of their recruitment policy looked wrong, both in emphasis and execution.

A reliance on looking for big names and PR value over actual current quality and potential looks to have cost them.

Casting an eye over younger players who want to prove themselves in Super League may well have been a better idea.

Danny Richardson is a lively young player with a point to prove, for example. Surely signing him would have served them better than lining up yet another veteran?

There are dozens of players on the fringes of first teams all over Super League who would have jumped at the chance to play some first team rugby and make a point.

They would also have been more inexpensive than the aging players that the Wolfpack did sign.

The likes of Scotland international Callum McLelland, a Leeds player who has been plying his trade with Featherstone Rovers, would have been another option.

Canada’s links with Scotland are profound and in many ways intrinsic to the country’s national identity – signing a Scottish international would have been good PR.

One player that they should definitely have considered signing is Ronan Michael, the young Irishman who is currently on the books at Huddersfield Giants and who has been spending the last few months Down Under at Canberra Raiders.

As well as being from Ireland, I’m also reliably informed that he has a Canadian passport. Those kind of dual links would go down well with the fans.

There was a lot of talk of the Canadian outfit looking to sign cross code talent from union.

They ended up with Sonny Bill Williams, a man who looked seriously out of shape in his forays into Super League.

Surely it would have been better to have targeted some young union players, possibly from Wales.

Players who are young enough to learn a new code and go on to make an impression, rather than old guys looking for pension.

There were also rumours that they wanted rugby union’s Eddie Jones to come in a director of rugby.

That would have been another monumental waste of money. PR? Possibly, but if you’re going to spend the kind of money that Jones would have demanded then it would be better to go in search of genuine rugby league expertise.

It might also have done them good to look in France, given Canada’s linguistic and cultural links there.

As John Boudebza showed a few years ago at Hull KR, it is possible to find diamonds in the French league with some intelligent scouting.

If the Wolfpack are not ready to develop Canadians, as they keep claiming, then they should have taken on themselves to develop players more generally, especially from regions on the fringes of the rugby league world.

The point is that Toronto are supposed to be something different, something fresh. A bit of creative thinking would have served them well when it came to their recruitment.

As it is, one cannot help thinking that Covid 19 may have caused them some mighty financial issues off the pitch, but on it, it might just have helped them dodge a bullet.

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