After leading the Wolfpack to a 24-6 victory over the Featherstone Rovers that earned Toronto a promotion to the Super League — the pinnacle of rugby league club competition in the Northern Hemisphere — head coach Brian McDermott should have been relaxed and celebrating.
Instead, due to some heated debate, McDermott nearly found himself throwing hands with a Featherstone supporter at Lamport Stadium in Toronto, Ont.
It all started after McDermott said Featherstone should have never had the opportunity to be promoted to Super League. And while a dominant performance by his Wolfpack ensured that didn’t happen, it could have. Although Toronto had only lost one game all season and comfortably sat atop the league’s table, a string of victories by the Rovers during the postseason earned them a spot in the Grand Final.
“A Featherstone supporter who was in the beer garden after the game challenged me on what I said that Featherstone shouldn’t be promoted to Super League as they were the fifth best team in the Championship,” said McDermott, according to Gary Carter of The Sun. “He couldn’t understand — I recognize Featherstone were a brilliant story but take the emotion out of it, do you want the fifth-best team in the Championship playing in Super League? Would that be good for the game? It wouldn’t be but the guy wanted to fight me. He got his fists ready and wanted to fight me.”
Yes, the fact that this series of events allegedly occurred in the facility’s beer garden is shocking to us as well.
While this Featherstone fan was a little angrier than most, McDermott believes he’s just one in a long line of rugby fans who aren’t thrilled with Toronto’s success. Since becoming the first transatlantic rugby league team in 2017 and quickly finding success thereafter, many on the other side of the pond haven’t been too pleased.
“I know people don’t like me or Toronto but there’s too many people, supporters, in the game that don’t want to see progression,” said McDermott, per Carter. “I’m astonished at the amount of people who can’t see why it would be good for the game. Unfortunately, it’s the luddite mentality.”
Regardless of the events following the game and the thoughts of others, the conclusion remains the same: The Wolfpack will rightfully be bumped to the Super League and face some of the top club teams in the world next season.
However, you have to give that supporter that confronted McDermott some respect. It takes some serious “featherstones” to be willing to throw hands with a former rugby star on his home turf.
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