Expansionist Blog: Toulouse Olympique are so unlucky not to be in Super League

Toulouse Olympique won the Championship Shield in 2017

Toulouse Olympique have come so close to being a Super League side several times, yet so far.

The French outfit were originally founded back in 1937 and were formed by Jean Galia, just two years after the French Rugby League Federation was founded.

The are based in Hate-Garonne in the South West of France and played their first game against RC Albi and were defeated.

Toulouse finished their debut season in eighth under Galia and reached the Cup Final the following season, but lost 7-3 to XIII Catalan.

Olympique played their last game before the war with a 62-5 win over Villefranche de Lauragais.

But, the club was forced to play Rugby Union due to the ban of Rugby League by the Vichy regime in France and in 1944, they even reached the semi-final of the French Cup in Rugby Union.

Their ground, Arnaune Stadium, was also confiscated by the State.

After the liberation by the Allies and restoration of the French Championship, Toulouse made another two Finals but lost to Carcassonne in both.

In 1995, the club changed their name to Toulouse Spacers following their partnership with the local aerospace company but only kept it for seven years.

Toulouse won the French Championship in 2000 with a win over AS Saint-Esteve and their ambition to join the Euroepean Super League really came to life but the RFL decided to accept the application from fellow French side Catalans Dragons and reject the one of Olympique, despite upgrading their stadium, youth development and becoming a limited company.

And Toulouse became the first ever French club to reach the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup as they beat Widnes Vikings 40-24 in 2005 but lost to Leeds Rhinos in the semi-final.

The RFL introduced licensing for the 2009 Super League season, with the number of clubs being increased from 12 to 14.

Olympique were one of the applicants to become a Super League team but failed to win a licence, losing out to the current top-flight sides as well as Salford and Crusaders.

And we all know what happened to the latter.

But after the 14 teams were confirmed, Toulouse were invited to enter the Championship for 2009 campaign, with an initial view to apply in the next round of franchising to be accepted into the top tier in 2012.

Toulouse spent three years in the RFL Championship but as there was no direct route to Super League at the time, they returned to the French Elite One Championship for the 2012 campaign.

But in 2015, Olympique returned to the RFL after they were accepted to play in League from the 2016 onwards as they again bid to become a Super League side.

The club also took over Toulouse Broncos the French domestic competition and were renamed the Toulouse Olympique Broncos, as they wanted to keep a team playing in France’s competition in the City.

Sylvain Houles’ Toulouse side had a fantastic year back in the RFL and went unbeaten in the 2016 League 1 season but lost in the Promotion Final to Rochdale Hornets.

However, they were promoted after they got through the play-offs and beat Barrow Raiders to become a Championship for 2017.

They had a great first season back in the Championship as well as nearly booked themselves a place in the Qualifiers, only for them to be denied due to an outstanding run of form from Halifax towards the back end of the season, with Halifax beating Toulouse to fourth spot.

Olympique seem to be on to something good as they have all the foundations in place, with them getting a couple of thousand supporters through the gates at home games as well.

And Toulouse continue to be growing and have made a big statement of intent for the 2018 campaign, with them having announced the signings of New Zealand international Sam Rapira and France star William Barthau.

They already have players of Super League quality in Mark Kheirallah, Jon Ford and Constantine Mika and the future of Toulouse Olympique looks very promising.

Expect to see another French side in Super League within the next couple of years…

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