The Toronto Wolfpack and their Off-Season ‘transactions’

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Three players have left, and one player has retired for the Toronto Wolfpack while three others have signed with the Wolfpack. The three players that signed with Toronto include Sonny Bill Williams, James Cunningham, and Brad Singleton.

All three players the Toronto Wolfpack have signed are Super League quality players. They will make a big positive difference with both the Toronto Wolfpack and for Super League.

The Off-Season Transactions of the Toronto Wolfpack

Sonny Bill Williams – Toronto Wolfpack’s Biggest Signing

Late last year, Sonny Bill Williams decided to switch codes from rugby union to rugby league. The last time the two-time All-Blacks Rugby World Cup champion played in rugby league was in 2014. According to Daniel Gallan of CNN, there were many things that attracted Williams to Toronto.

“Toronto Wolfpack has established themselves as a multicultural and economic powerhouse, not only in the city but across the world,” Williams said. “The club has big ambitions and big goals. I want to be part of all this and do all I can to help reach those lofty goals.”

These goals include the urge to win Super League and Challenge Cup titles. He also states how the organization and the city itself is now recognizable across the entire world of rugby. This is a big statement to make as before 2016 neither the Toronto Wolfpack nor the Toronto Arrows (pro rugby union team) existed.

It just shows the hard work Brian Noble, Brian McDermott, and David Argyle has put in this club. A lot of credit should be given to past players, coaches, and founders. This includes former head coach Paul Rowley and founder Eric Perez. Eric Perez will be leaving the Wolfpack to lead the Ottawa rugby league team.

Sonny Bill Williams has won two National Rugby League (NRL) premiership titles. This includes in 2004 with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and in 2013 with the Sydney Roosters. He has also been two minor premierships (2013 and 2014) and a World Club Challenge (2014) with the Sydney Roosters. Williams was also named as part of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Team of the Decade (2005-2014) in 2015.

Sonny Bill Williams will be joined by James Cullingham, who has a history of playing against the Toronto Wolfpack with the London Broncos.

James Cunningham – London Broncos

The last time Cunningham played against the Toronto Wolfpack was in the 2018 Million Pound Game with the London Broncos. In that game, his Broncos prevailed and got promoted to Super League while the Toronto Wolfpack had to remain in the Championship.

However, the roles have reversed since 2018. The London Broncos were relegated back to the Championship and the Toronto Wolfpack was promoted to Super League in 2019. James Cunningham has played for the London Broncos from 2015-2019, where he had 124 points in 104 games.

He also has Super League experience with the London Broncos in 2014 and Hull FC from 2012-2015. He will have huge holes to fill as he will replace Bob Beswick, who left the Wolfpack to play with League One’s Newcastle Thunder.

Another player who played against the Toronto Wolfpack in 2018 was then Leeds Rhinos player Brad Singleton. In that game, Toronto Wolfpack’s Gareth O’Brien hit a dropkick that gave the Wolfpack the one-point win in the 2018 Super 8’s qualifiers.

Brad Singleton – Leeds Rhinos

Singleton has played in Super League for the Leeds Rhinos from 2011-2019. He broke out in a Leeds Rhinos outfit in 2014. In that time frame, he has won two Super League titles, one Challenge Cup, and one League Leader’s Shield with the Rhinos. He was part of that treble-winning team in 2015 which won one League Leader’s Shield, Challenge Cup, and Super League title.

He has 180 total games with the Rhinos, scoring 80 points in those games. According to Total Rugby League’s Matthew Shaw, Singleton is looking forward to playing with the Wolfpack.

Brad Singleton Looking Forward to Playing for the Toronto Wolfpack

“It’s so exciting,” he said. “I’ve said all along that my family has already made the big move away from home. We’ve already made that jump from Barrow to Leeds.

“We were keen for an adventure and we could do that through rugby. The move to Toronto reflects the goal of the family”.

According to Matthew Shaw, a big reason why Singleton signed with the Wolfpack was because of Toronto Wolfpack coach Brian McDermott.

“I’d be lying if I said that Mac wasn’t a positive influence. I had one phone call with him and it was good and honest between both of us”.

“I think he can see I’m hungry and I could see Toronto were too. “He’s an honest bloke and I’ve probably missed that and the environment he created. I’m not saying it was dishonest at Leeds, but I missed his version of it. It reminded me what I was missing when I spoke to him.”

McDermott is a well-known former Leeds Rhinos coach. Before his tenure with the Toronto Wolfpack, he was at the helm of the Rhinos from 2011-2019. He played a big role in their four Super League titles, including the two Singleton was part of in 2015 and 2017.

According to Steven Hughes of Serious About Rugby League, he will replace Ashton Sims. Sims retired after the Championship Grand Final last year and played a big role in getting the Wolfpack into Super League.

Last and not least, there have been some rumours that the Wolfpack are after a Canadian to come back as a Toronto Wolfpack player. The player from Victoria, Canada named Quinn Ngawati could be making a return to the Wolfpack and possibly make his Super League debut.

Quinn Ngawati – Possible Toronto Wolfpack Signing

Unlike the other three signings, this one has not been officially confirmed yet. This rumour was first reported by Matthew Shaw of League Express. Ngawati is a “Canadian Kiwi” whose mother is from Canada and father is from New Zealand.

According to Canadian Rugby League in 2017, the Toronto Wolfpack did open trials all over North America to find hidden rugby league gems. The Wolfpack believed Ngawati was one of those players and signed him with the Toronto Wolfpack. Ngawati was part of Paul Rowley’s Wolfpack team in 2017, where he became the first Canadian player to play professional rugby league. He made a total of three appearances for the Toronto Wolfpack.

Jack Conlin of Serious of Rugby League reported that Ngawati left the club in 2018 to pursue a career in aviation but has kept his match fitness playing amateur rugby union in Canada. While he does not have the profile of the other three players on this list, signing Quinn Ngawati would be a popular move. He may not get much playing time but having a Canadian on a team will help develop the rugby league game in Canada.

The Toronto Wolfpack Off-Season Moves

Besides Sonny Bill Williams, there have not been too many changes with the Toronto Wolfpack. James Cunningham replaces Bob Beswick and Brad Singleton replaces Ashton Sims.

Nick Rawsthorne and Ryan Brierley both left for the Hull Kingston Rovers club. While it is sad these two players leave the Wolfpack, it was to be expected. Both players saw reduced playing time for the Wolfpack and have decided to move on.

A lot of players have been re-signed this year. According to the Toronto Wolfpack, Adam Sidlow, Andy Ackers, Liam Kay, Chase Stanley, Blake Wallace, Gary Wheeler, and Gadwin Springer have all agreed to two-year contracts. Hakim Miloudi, Bodene Thompson and Josh McCrone have been re-signed for the 2020 season.

Their roster has mainly been kept intact. A lot of the players that helped the Wolfpack get promotion last year will be suiting up this year. This is a good sign as the Wolfpack should at least remain out of the relegation zone this year.

They are a much better team than the London Broncos Super League team in 2019, which was one of the best teams in Super League history to be relegated to the Championship. The bad news though is the Wolfpack’s roster size.

Toronto Wolfpack’s Roster Size

The problem for Wolfpack in this off-season though is the size of their roster. According to the Canadian Press of TSN, only 21-23 confirmed players are on the Toronto Wolfpack’s roster right now. This could mean a depleted roster if injuries become an issue this year. Brian McDermott explains the situation:

“My squad is very exposed,” he added. “If we get injuries, if we get two or three players injured on a 23-man squad, we start to look really skinny.”

Toronto Wolfpack’s Upcoming Games

They will play their first regular-season game in Headingley Stadium against the Castleford Tigers on Sunday, February 2. They will also play the Castleford Tigers on January 19 for a pre-season game at Mend-A-Hose Jungle in Castleford, England.

The first-ever Super League game in Canada will take place Saturday, April 18th at Lamport Stadium. Hull FC will be the first road Super League team to play in Canada in 2020.

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images