Toronto Wolfpack: Success needed to set foundations, says journalist Nigel Reed

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Super League Show: 'North America can be next big market' in rugby league

Toronto Wolfpack will need early success to break a crowded marketplace in the city, says Canada-based journalist Nigel Reed.

The Wolfpack's entry in professional rugby league, making them the first transatlantic team to play in the European game, has created interest.

However, they are competing with a variety of sports within the city.

"Toronto fans are crying out for a winning team, they love a winner," Reed told BBC Radio 5 live.

"So I think it's important that the Wolfpack come into the league and have a winning first season.

"Toronto is a big multicultural city and that could play into rugby league's hands."

Wolfpack won their first competitive fixture against Siddal in the Challenge Cup on Saturday.

Challenges

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'Toronto could struggle to break Canada'

As the capital of the province of Ontario, Toronto provides the home for clubs in the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB) and Major League Soccer (MLS).

Toronto FC were the most recent of those to stake their claim for public affections when they entered the MLS in 2005, and there are lessons to be learned from their experience for the Wolfpack administrators.

"The Maple Leafs [ice hockey] and Blue Jays [baseball] historically in recent years have not enjoyed a lot of success," Reed, who works for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation continued.

"First and foremost they have to put themselves on the map. When Toronto FC first came into the MLS 10 years ago they had huge interest in the team, the season tickets were up around 16,000 but the truth of the matter was the product was terrible for the first seven or eight years and the ownership didn't get that.

"They thought the fans would keep coming, and eventually the fans turned their back and said they didn't want anything to do with it. They had to put prices down to expansion year levels, and invest in the team.

"Sports fans have had a bellyful of teams that underperform. So if Wolfpack can do well in that first season and get momentum, those curious onlookers down to the stadium get themselves on TV and in the newspapers, that will help."

Huge incentives

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Toronto win first-ever Challenge Cup match

Toronto's owner Eric Perez has already brought big names within the sport to the Lamport Stadium for 2017, including ex-New Zealand prop Fuifui Moimoi and Super League full-back Craig Hall.

Further success could make Toronto an attractive proposition for other top players, not to mention the unique location and quality of life.

"Eric had this vision he was going to take rugby league by storm, but credit to him he's got a team in this competition," Leeds Rhinos back-rower Jamie Jones-Buchanan told the BBC Rugby League podcast.

"A lot of young English boys, especially the single ones with no commitments, would love to have a little pad in Toronto and live that life over there.

"People talk about going to Australia to live the lifestyle but what about Canada? What a life that could be."

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