In the opening installment of the Fans’ View – Magic Weekend feature from Get ’em Onside, the first match at St James’ Park happens to be the first ever non-Super League match to feature in the showpiece event as Betfred Championship teams Toronto Wolfpack face Toulouse. Representing the Canadians is John Gross, a Wolfpack season ticket holder since day one and whose company sponsors centre Greg Worthington, while the French representative is Fab Steguelelex, a 34 year old Toulouse native who is passionate about rugby league in the nation…
1) Around halfway through the season, how do you feel your team is doing?
Wolfpack: I am thrilled! The level of competition in The Championship is clearly better than League 1, so we’re not winning as many games by large margins. I thought we would be pretty competitive, but I did not expect to have this good a record at this stage, especially considering the extraordinary run of away games to start the season.
Toulouse: The team finished the first part of the season with the same amount of point compared to last year (eight wins, three losses) but the competition seems to be more intense. Still seven teams can realistically claim a top four spot at the end of the regular season. We were at the same point in the table last year and did not manage to stay in the top four, so I wont dare being too positive. But the team plays a great rugby – that is important!
2) What is the best thing about watching your team at home?
Wolfpack: Finally getting to see them at home after so long! Also the team held a launch event for season ticket holders where we got to meet most of the players, the coach and owner – that was great!
Toulouse: Seeing English fans make the journey to Toulouse. My opinion is that English fans will play a great role in the salvation of rugby league in Toulouse. The more they are every two weekends, the more our local fan base will grow. We need to be the ‘best away destination’ in the Championship – or Super League – and it seems that the club is putting some efforts in that direction.
3) What has been your most impressive result so far this season and why?
Wolfpack: I think edging Toulouse on Easter Monday was the most impressive win. Toulouse is a tough team, and they looked better than the Wolfpack for most of that game but we hung in there and made the most of our opportunities.
Toulouse: The competition is competitive, every win is important. I would say that our away win against London with tough weather conditions (just before playing Toronto at home) was very crucial. It was important to get at least one win out of these 2 matches, plus we needed our revenge after losing twice to London last season!
4) Which player of your Magic Weekend opponent do you wish you had in your team?
Wolfpack: To be honest, I just don’t know the Toulouse team well enough to answer that at this point!
Toulouse: That’s hard… I will go for their big prop Sims.
5) Who is your team’s player of the season so far?
Wolfpack: That’s a tough question, and the answer may well be different by the end of the season, as we have a lot of new players who have joined recently, who are starting to make an impact. My favourite player is probably Liam Kay, who has the most tries so far on our team, and is exciting to watch dashing down the sidelines. He also made a fabulous game-saving tackle against Toulouse!
Toulouse: None in particular. I like Stan Robin, losing him recently to injury is a big blow. I think that Kheirellah it more at ease kicking this season compared to last and the whole team has improved and will hopefully keep improving.
6) How do you think the season will end?
Wolfpack: At this point it seems clear that the Wolfpack will be in the Qualifiers, and with their long run of home games in June and July I think there is a high probability they will hang on to top spot in the table. That would get them 4 home games in the Qualifiers. I don’t really know yet how they compare to the bottom 4 sides in Super League, or how much more they can improve their squad before the summer, but I think they stand a decent chance of promotion. I would love to see us host the Million Pound Game here in Toronto!
Toulouse: If we get the top 4 with a complete squad, which is far from a done deal, then, we have chances to go up. The group is mentally ready and physically capable of winning against every teams in the Championship and to get one or 2 upsets against SL sides.
7) What are your views on Magic Weekend?
Wolfpack: This event is entirely new to me. I had never before heard of a sport taking all their teams to one city for a weekend, and I think it’s a great idea. For me it will be my first time seeing any of the Super League teams live, and it will also be a great opportunity to preview the four teams we may be facing later in the summer in the Qualifiers. So I am excited about it. I know there are other fans from Toronto attending the Magic Weekend, and if we do earn a spot in Super League, I expect that support will grow year by year.
Toulouse: Well, I think this a great concept, If TO XIII goes up in SL, we can have it in Toulouse! In my opinion, it is hard to be against the concept! More seriously, TO and TWP are invited this year. Magic Weekend is for SL sides, we are not a SL sides (not yet). Hopefully next year, we will have earned our place in the Magic Weekend!