It will be a historic season in the Super League next season, with the competition having an unprecedented international league for the first time in its history. The inclusion of Toronto into the Super League following their million-dollar game win has been met with its fair share of criticism, but it’s hard to see anything other than positives for the game growing.
At the end of the day, the sport will need to continue to grow in order to sustain itself, and the promotion of Toronto promises to showcase that. The sport will reach a brand-new audience in a city that is renowned for its love of sport, and if any city in North America is going to welcome it with open arms; it will be Toronto.
The city has grown from being a sole hockey country over recent years, with basketball taken quickly into the hearts of the locals following the success of the Toronto Raptors in the betting odds of NBA. Meanwhile, soccer is becoming a favourite sport in the city, with most of the Toronto FC games being sell-outs in the MLS season and the team currently in the final of the MLS Cup. If rugby league can tap into that market, then there is no doubt that the sport will grow to a new level.
The Toronto owner, David Argyle has promised that the city will take it seriously in the Super League, and they have no intention of just being there to make up the numbers. Argyle has revealed that he expects the game to grow further in North America, and teams from New York, Washington and Boston could one day be competing in the Super League.
The news may come as a worry to those fans already supporting Super League sides as away fixtures could become very tricky to navigate. Next season, fans will already have to travel on a 14-hour round trip if they want to see their side play in Toronto, and of course, that will remain a concern should more international sides join the Super League. But, this is exactly the kind of progression that is needed to take the sport into a new level, and fans should embrace it.
It will no longer be a league made up on teams from the north of England, and instead, it could become one of the fiercest and commercially successful leagues in the world. Some online sportsbooks have concerns about how Toronto may perform in their first season in the Super League, as they expect the newly promoted side to be battling against relegation.
However, they have already highlighted their dedication to progressing as a side as they have recently made contact over a possible move for Sonny Bill Williams. The All Black stepped away from rugby league to pursue his career in union, and a move back across the codes would signal a direct message to the rest of the league. If any deal can be reached, then it will likely be a record-breaking one, but one that will also catch the imagination of the entire world.
Brian McDermott stated before these talks began that the team were looking for a David Beckham-esque signing that could raise their profile and ensure that the entire city is captivated by the sport. It would certainly be a tactic that works, and should they pull off a signing of this size, then the city would quickly become engrossed in the sport like Los Angeles was when Beckham arrived in the MLS. Time will tell whether they can get this over the line, but it is certainly a very exciting time for rugby league.