We’re a big sports family – playing and spectating (hockey, ultimate frisbee, basketball and football) are some of our family’s favourite activities. So we jumped at the chance to add rugby to our list.
The Toronto Wolfpack is the city’s first pro Rugby League team and the world’s first transatlantic major pro team part of the Rugby Football League (meaning their opponents are from the UK.) The Wolfpack is one of Toronto’s most winning-est teams going undefeated in their first season last year, taking the Kingstone Press League 1 title, and now competing this year in the Betfred Championship as the top team.
The Wolfpack plays Saturdays (regular season ends July 28) at Lamport Stadium (aka “The Den”), east of Dufferin Ave. off King St.
The game is 13-on-13 and in some ways resembles CFL/NFL-style play but the players play both defense and offence and there are no pads or no blocking. The players are tough, the game is rough, but it didn’t feel violent. Fists never flew, fights never erupted and despite no visible equipment, not once during the 80-minute game did a player get injured or roll dramatically on the ground to encourage a penalty.
That said, my six-year-old, did ask at one point “How do you know when there’s penalty – they’re always wrestling?!”
Good question – and during the game we asked a lot of questions to our fellow rugby fans who filled the stands happily shared their knowledge and passion for the game.
Scoring possessions consist of six tackles, as the attacking team progresses up the field. Players can only pass sideways and backwards, as the opposing team tries to stop them. Tackles above the chest and shoulder charges are not allowed.
A team scores points as they advance. A ‘try’ involves touching the ball to the ground on or beyond the defending team’s goal-line, and is worth four points. A ‘goal’ may be gained from a kicked conversion after a try or a penalty – it’s worth two points. A field goal, or drop goal, is gained by dropping and then kicking the ball on the half volley between the uprights in open play and is worth one point. (My kids got a kick out the fact that the balls often got kicked right over the gates and into streetcar traffic.) An attacking team gets a maximum of six tackles to progress up the field before possession is changed over.
There is a great community feel, with even the opposing team having a pretty solid contingent of supporters who travelled from the UK for the game. The vibe is fairly family-friendly, with half-time promotions and Jefferson the mascot high-fiving Wolfpack fans.
Getting there: Lamport Stadium is south of King St. just east of Dufferin Ave in Liberty Village. Lots of paid parking on-site, and easy access from the King St streetcar.
Low-down: Tickets range from $34 + tax for adults to $14.50 + tax for Kids and Seniors. Seating is general admission and prices vary between east and west side. (Supporters are located on the northeast corner.) Next games are: Saturday July 21, 2018 at 4:30 and Saturday, July 28, 2018 at 1:30 pm.
Trip Tip: All training sessions are open to the public at Lamport Stadium while the team is in town: Tuesday 1pm – 2:30pm; Wednesday 1pm – 2:30pm; Friday 10am – 11am – check The Wolfpack website for more details.
Snacks: Food and drink for purchase from vendors along the stands.
Want to play: Junior leagues are run through Rugby Ontario.