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Written by: Chris Perrotte
After 150 years of independence, Canada now has its first professional rugby league team called the Toronto Wolfpack. Lamport Stadium in downtown Toronto, known as “The Den,” is home to the Wolfpack.
In this, their inaugural season, 24 men - led by their captain Craig Hall - don their black and white jerseys and step onto the pitch to do battle against teams in The Rugby Football League. They are guided by Head Coach Paul Rowley along with Assistant Coach Simon Finnigan, leading them with the hope of claiming the championship in their first year. So far, the team’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed as fan support has been tremendous.
On January 22, 2017, Toronto Wolfpack kicked off their first ever season with a “friendly” (exhibition) match against United Kingdom’s Hull FC in Hull, England.
On May 6, 2017, the Wolfpack made their home debut at The Den vs Oxford RLFC with a decisive 62 to 12 victory in front of their enthusiastic fans. All season, the pack has been very supportive of their rugby team. It's a model of play that the rugby world is watching very closely, especially given talks in recent years about getting North America involved in league rugby play on the continent. For Canada's part, the Wolfpack is our first truly professional team within an already established league. It's an experiment in cross-ocean play that has thus far been successful despite the Wolves long (and necessary) absences from their Den.
“The fans have been amazing all season,” says Federico Cortes, Events and Operations Manager of the Wolfpack.
"The incredibly energetic atmosphere at every single one of our matches is "magical" and it's all because of the fans.” Fans are also active on social media, following the team and continuing to offer their support even when they are on their long road-trips.
In the animal world, wolves are known not only to be complex but highly intelligent creatures. Their most important trait is that they are devoted to family, sticking close together no matter the distance of their travels. In the world of rugby, the bond that is formed on and off the field is like a family for many of the individuals who help make the Toronto Wolfpack a great organization. In the Wolfpack's case, the analogy is very appropriate. This is a team that is sticking together, and recruiting "family members" by the day as they continue their winning ways and graceful conduct both on and off the field.
One such family member in this growing pack is Cortes. Since March, Federico has been a proud part of the Wolfpack family. He shares the most rewarding aspect of his career with the club.
“After every match I've been approached by fans who without knowing exactly my role and responsibilities with the Wolfpack just thank me because they are enjoying so much the events and what we're doing with the team. They just want to express their gratitude and appreciation,” says Cortes.
Putting in the hard work and long hours to produce a winning and entertaining product on the field for the fans can be very rewarding, even with the distance to consider every six weeks or so. But what is the most unexpected obstacle he faces in his task to produce that type of atmosphere?
“Believe it or not, it's time," says Cortes. “The amount of things we want to do to improve every aspect of this organization and what we do for our fans, and 24 hours a day is not enough.”
Cortes grew up in Mexico and admits that rugby wasn’t very popular there and that he didn't know much about the game. But now he finds himself within the Wolfpack, a team that is very diverse and worth celebrating, and it feels a natural fit for the Events Manager.
Proudly, this team is a piece of our rich 150 year Canadian history, something for the rugby community coast to coast to celebrate. Especially given how popular they have become in such a short time.
Every member of the Wolfpack is important. However, every person within the Wolfpack organization realizes that the most valuable member of the team is each and every fan that shows up to support these fierce and proud wolves on the pitch.
Anyone that likes either code of Rugby is invited to come on out to The Den and see "who let the Wolves Out." ARH-WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!