Toronto find themselves in the surreal position of being both a trailblazer and a guinea pig in Super League.
The Wolfpack have lost three from three at the start of their first campaign in the top flight, and the vultures are already circling as they wait for the ambitious trans-Atlantic franchise to fail.
With Ottawa, New York and maybe other outposts watching their progress closely, it’s important to learn from the mistakes they make, as well as their successes.
While there is no shame in their defeats so far, against Grand Finalists Salford in between losses against Castleford and Wigan, who also made the play-offs last year, they’re already being predicted by betting sites to finish bottom of the Super League table.
That seems a little unfair at the moment – though the ongoing debate over their squad size and salary cap dispensations is fuelling the fire of doubt, even before coach Brian McDermott mentioned relegation as the elephant in the room in his post-match press conference on Thursday.
They’re facing a battle of trying to market the sport to a new audience, as well as putting a competitive team on the pitch.
Their move for Sonny Bill Williams undoubtedly ticks the marketing box, and while he definitely ticks the on-field one too, perhaps any other Super League club in their position would have spent the £175,000 that Williams takes up on the cap on three or four other players to bolster a squad that is already creaking after just a tenth of the season.
Some question how they have managed to exhaust the salary cap of approximately £2.1m already, and for that, maybe their route to Super League must be blamed.
Rather than recruit a Super League squad from the off, they instead recruited a squad that steamrollered League One and the Championship, overpaying in the process, and that has now started to come back to bite them when they’re having to compete in the top flight.
With the prospect of relegation, though unlikely in my opinion, hanging over them – the hangover from this could have potentially disastrous consequences.
We’re unsure whether the investment would continue should the Wolfpack drop out of the top flight.
It may make other overseas clubs hesitant – and should perhaps point them in the direction of going straight in to Super League as a protected franchise, as Catalans were in their early years.
Toronto are on the first losing run in their history, which adds another fascinating dynamic – how or when will the pressure mount on the likes of Brian Noble and the players, and indeed how it impacts the match day experience at Lamport Stadium.
Israel Folau has at least taken a bit of heat off the Wolfpack in terms of headlines, though the fact they generate such regular debate is great for the sport.
Nothing like the Wolfpack has ever seemed to split opinion; their rarely seems to be a middle ground. Nothing’s perfect, so if Toronto lose a few games, so what?
The way Super League has started, it may take a while to figure out just who is going to be battling out at the top or the bottom.
Warrington find themselves in a peculiar situation. Impressive in beating an admittedly understrength St Helens last week, after gaining plaudits for their brave loss to Wigan with 12 men, the Wolves limped to defeat at Wakefield.
They haven’t won successive games since early June, a quite incredible statistic for a club expected to challenge for the top honours.
The decision to drop Matty Ashton, after he starred in the opening two rounds, appeared to backfire, as the introduction of Gareth Widdop for a debut failed to inspire.
A word for Huddersfield too – the only team without a defeat in Super League this season, albeit after having played just two games.