Laithwaite and Wheeler to join Toronto

 Warrington Wolves can confirm back-rower James Laithwaite and halfback Gary Wheeler will leave the club at the end of the season and join Toronto.

Laithwaite, 24, is a product of the club’s academy system having played his amateur rugby for Crosfields.

He made his first-team debut in 2013 and has gone on to make 50 appearances for his hometown club.

Wheeler, 26, joined the club from St Helens making his debut in 2015 holding heritage number 1117 with 12 appearances having been hampered with injury.

Head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for both James and Gary. Neither has played a lot of rugby in the last couple of years it’s a really exciting prospect for them and I also think Toronto are getting two very talented young players. I hope both are able to keep fit and healthy over the next couple of years to re-establish their careers and kick on. We are grateful for what they have contributed to our fantastic club and we will always keep the door open for them in the future.

“It’s exciting for all to be involved in what is a little bit of the unknown in how it’s going to be received. It’s a very brave and ambitious venture that I’m sure all Rugby League lovers will hope is a success. We can only open up our hearts and minds to it and hope it proves to take on in other parts of the world which is the positive part of it that our great sport is being promoted
somewhere else.”

Laithwaite said: “It’s a new chapter in my life moving over there. It’s somewhere different to play my rugby. I have been at Warrington since I was 11 so it’s all I’m used to; all I’ve ever known. To go out there and play will be a challenge but one I can’t wait for.

“I’ve been out for a year now so my focus is on getting back playing and everything else will come. It will be good to get back on the field and show what I can do. It’s something new so a bit of gamble maybe but something I’m willing to take a chance on; apparently they are big on their rugby over there and it could really take off and be the start of something good. It gives me a chance to travel and an opportunity to see more of the world. Toronto looks like a great city, I know Gaz Wheeler and a few of the lads who have signed too.

“I’ve not got a bad word to say about Warrington. I’ve got a lot of good friends here. I’ve had some great times here; ones I will never forget. When I was young all I wanted to do was play for Warrington and it’s something I’ve done and am proud of – my family are proud of. I’ve loved every minute of being here. I’ve played with some great players, made some great mates; thanks for the memories. And Tony has said that the door is always open!”

Wheeler added: “It will be a new experience for me out there and a chance to get some good game time under my belt and start enjoying my rugby again. It will be a change and it will do me good. I am looking forward to the experience over there. I get on well with Jams and have got a few other mates going there as well which will make the trip a lot easier with leaving family at home.

“Hopefully it takes off over there. It will be good for the other teams who come over to see another part of the world and vice versa.

“I’ve loved my time at Warrington and I’ve enjoyed every single minute. The club has been absolutely brilliant with me and helped me in my career along the way. Obviously it’s come to an end before I’d have liked it to but that’s rugby.”

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