Toronto Wolfpack head coach Brian McDermott has admitted his club learned some harsh lessons during their first aborted Super League season as he launched an impassioned plea for a second chance.
Wolfpack have met the deadline to submit an application to rejoin Super League for 2021 having pulled out of the competition in July amid financial issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.
But McDermott fears the league’s first North American outfit may be destined to pay a heavy price for a series of on and off-field blunders as they await a likely vote which will determine their future.
Reflecting on what he described as a “nightmare” first campaign in the top flight, McDermott admitted his club were underprepared, antagonistic and hampered by ill-judged attempts to operate under the salary cap.
In an open letter, McDermott wrote: “After a period of self-reflection I feel it’s right and proper to admit that we were underprepared both administratively and on the field within the football department.
“I personally highlighted at the start of the year how I felt that certain rules and regulations were extremely difficult to abide by and some of them were near impossible for us to comply with.
“But I must admit I and the club were too distracted by those elements of our weekly challenges and we let slip certain aspects of our organisation that should have been tighter and better prepared.”
McDermott admitted the club’s work within the salary cap rules – which was severely restricted by the £2.6m contract paid to Sonny Bill Williams – “wasn’t as shrewd and as effective as we needed it to be”.
And he accepted the relationship with the game’s governing bodies was “strained”, adding: “We spent too much time antagonising too many people within the game – and not enough time preparing ourselves for a competition that takes no prisoners.”
Wolfpack’s first top-flight season was dogged by a plainly underprepared squad and rumours of financial strife which were realised when a number of players revealed they had not received their wages for three months.
Talks are ongoing with a prospective new owner and Wolfpack chiefs hope to be able to present their case to the RFL, Super League and its member clubs ahead of an expected vote over 2021 re-admission.
But McDermott admitted: “I’m nervous about our re-application into Super League. I know we have damaged bridges within the game and I know too many have already come to a judgement about us.
“We have learned some harsh lessons – but now we must look to the future.
“We’re excited. We have a potential new owner who possesses the complete package of ownership that every club desires.
“He has the wealth to back up the club through its tough years of development. He has the business acumen to come up with a business plan to make the club self-sustaining within a planned number of seasons.
“I personally feel that rugby league and Super League is a more attractive sport with Toronto Wolfpack in it – that it has a real chance to reach and impress wider audiences and potential investors.
“I also understand that this will only be true if we are a well-run organisation that complements Super League – not antagonises it. We as a club need to recognise that we haven’t been as good as we needed to be to enhance the Super League.
“Decisions will be made soon regarding our future. For the sake of a number of interested parties – our players and staff, our fans and sponsors, the city of Toronto and maybe the game as a whole – I respectfully hope a brave and compassionate decision is made.”
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