Ryan Burroughs’ journey to the Toronto Wolfpack and Old Glory DC

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Ryan Burroughs’ journey to the Toronto Wolfpack and Old Glory DC was a long and unlikely journey. This article would look at how his older brother Chris Burroughs influenced his younger brother on choosing his path in the sports world. This helped paved the path to get professional contracts with both the Toronto Wolfpack and Old Glory DC.

Ryan Burroughs rugby/league Journey

Childhood and brotherly advice

Ryan Burroughs grew up with a single mother along with his older brother Chris Burroughs. The family did not have much growing up in Virginia. According to Aishwarya Kumar of ESPN.com, this is what his older Burroughs said:

“Our mom got a job in the hotel working as a maid. It was a low-budget one, so the owner let us live there,” Chris Burroughs said, recalling a time when they spent their nights in sleeping bags on the floor of a hotel room.

Furthermore, their paternal grandmother also made a big impact on the Burrough brothers:

“During summers, we would go stay with her” he said, “and one time we were picking up trash from the side of the road, cutting up weeds, and I remember people would stop in the neighbourhood, and they would hand us $20 and tell us to go take our grandma out for lunch.”

Lastly, both brothers made an impact on each other, they both filled the hole of not having a father. After Ryan Burroughs finished his stint with the US army, his older brother Chris Burroughs gave his younger brother advice according to the same ESPN.com article:

“Ryan, you are playing all these sports, but they aren’t going to take you anywhere. Pick a sport and be great at it.”

This advice by his older brother, helped Ryan Burroughs find a pathway towards a sport he would thrive in, which was rugby.

Start of Ryan Burroughs’ footy career

Ryan Burroughs started off his rugby league career for the USA Hawks, their national men’s team. In that same year, he played for the Northern Virginia Eagles until 2016 with 33 tries scored. He also had success with the Wentworthville Magpies scoring 17 tries in 2016. This helped earn Burroughs his first-ever pro rugby contract with the Toronto Wolfpack.

According to the Canadian Press of TSN, Burroughs began his journey of both codes of rugby at the end of his three-year stint with the US army. He began playing rugby union but decided to play rugby league with the Northern Virginia Eagles.

Being selected by the Toronto Wolfpack

Although the Toronto Wolfpack is a Canadian team, they were no other pro rugby league teams in the Americas including the U.S. Therefore, it was not surprising that Wolfpack was giving chances for rugby league players in the US and Jamaica to earn a contract.

Furthermore, Major League Rugby’s (MLR) first year in operation was in 2018 and PRO Rugby folded after the 2016 season. This means that in 2017, the Toronto Wolfpack was the only professional rugby team of either code of rugby to play in North America.

Ryan Burroughs first heard about the Toronto Wolfpack from fellow U.S. international Mark Offerdahl, who at that time played with the London Broncos. According to the Canadian Press of TSN, Burroughs had his heart set on making the Toronto Wolfpack squad.

“I had my heart set on coming to play for the Wolfpack,” Burroughs said. “That’s where I wanted to go and they were able to make it happen. (Wolfpack) coach Paul Rowley saw my footage and knew I was still a bit raw and new to the game but he was willing to give me a shot so I can’t thank him enough for that.”

Rowley was the first-ever Toronto Wolfpack head coach. He signed in 2016 with the Wolfpack and was the head coach from 2017-18.  Burroughs would play with the Toronto Wolfpack from 2017-18. During his time with the Toronto Wolfpack, he had 8 tries in 11 games, with a total of 32 points. This includes scoring the Wolfpack’s first-ever competitive try against Siddal A.R.L.F.C. in England. They would win their first competitive game in the third round of the 2017 Challenge Cup 14-6.

He then played professionally for the Toronto Wolfpack in 2018, where he was loaned to both the London Skolars and Barrow Raiders. He had seven tries and a combined 48 points in 17 games played for those two teams.

After his time with the Toronto Wolfpack, he decided to move his talents to MLR for the 2020 season.

‘New pathway’ with Old Glory DC

Ryan Burroughs went to America’s capital city in Washington D.C. on October 12th, 2018. He became the third-ever player to be signed by Old Glory DC according to americasrugbynews.

According to the Sher&Lil podcast, Burroughs said that he was approached by Old Glory DC for a potential contract with the squad in Major League Rugby.

“Last year, I was debating on you know signing with a few different clubs but I wanted to go home reset. Out of the blue the guy a DC MLR which is rugby union send me a message and asked me to come and play for their team and the exhibition season he was like I’m not gonna guarantee like a contract in MLR and anything like that. Ya don’t worry about that, and I’ll earn that.” Ryan Burroughs then later said, “played really well during the exhibition season and got my contract offer for 2020.”

For Old Glory DC, he has played three games where he has scored two tries and has a total of 10 points. Even though Burroughs is now a professional rugby union player, he is still playing for USA Hawks, their national rugby league team. He also started to play for the nine-men version of the rugby league side in 2019 for the USA Hawks.

USA National team honours

Burroughs has been with the regular 13-man rugby league team since 2015. He has played eight games for them and has scored 32 points. Burroughs represented the American squad in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. The USA Hawks, unfortunately, lost all three games and a points differential of -156. They suffered heavy losses to Fiji, Italy, and Papua New Guinea.

Furthermore, just recently he started playing for the USA Hawks nines program. He was in the 2019 Rugby League World Cup 9s. In this tournament, the USA Hawks again lost all three games but by smaller margins. They had a points differential of -93. However, Burroughs was able to score a try in the Rugby League World Cup 9’s and had a total of six points in the tournament.

Burroughs played for Brian McDermott, who coached the USA Hawks from 2016-18. He is now the current head coach of the Toronto Wolfpack.

Overview of Ryan Burroughs

It is important to understand Ryan Burroughs journey in both codes of rugby. He played for amateur or semi-pro teams all around the world. However, it is also true that his first two professional contracts came from North America. The first contract came in 2016 with the Toronto Wolfpack and the second one in 2019 with Old Glory DC of Major League Rugby (MLR).

He is the first player to play with both the Toronto Wolfpack and MLR. However, he will not be the last. The Ottawa Aces XIII is planning to do open tryouts in Canada. Pending the coronavirus pandemic, these tryouts will take place in the fall according to Neil Davidson of The Canadian Press. There are 10 contracts up for grabs.

Furthermore, as a player who played both codes of rugby, he explains who rugby league has helped develop his game in rugby union on the Sher&Lil podcast:

“North America is kind of realizing is that rugby league will actually make you a better rugby union player. Because it helps your skills it helps you kicking, passing, it helps you your abilities to like read the defense and like how everyone’s lined up and like now like even played on the wing in Union I can see the plays before they happen so I just shut it down straight away.”

With a New York City rugby league team likely, and MLR growing to 13 teams, Burroughs is just a start of a trend. Expect more players to play in both codes of rugby in North America as the professional game continues to grow. Burroughs was the second original Toronto Wolfpack player to be covered on Last Word on Rugby with the first one being Blake Wallace.


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