Toronto Wolfpack have signalled their intention to make their mark on English rugby league with the signing of former Leigh and New Zealand international Fuifui Moimoi.
The world’s first transatlantic professional sports team began the countdown to their entry into Kingstone Press League 1 in 2017 at a press conference in Liverpool, on the eve of the Four Nations final at Anfield.
He’s an iconic brand and will add an additional physical presence to an already impressive line-upPaul Rowley
The Canadian club have been drip-feeding player signings over the last three months and, although their worldwide recruitment is not yet over, their marquee capture is Moimoi, who spent the first 14 years of his professional career at NRL club Parramatta before spending the last two season in the Championship with Leigh.
The 37-year-old Tongan prop is older than Toronto founder Eric Perez, but head coach Paul Rowley believes the “Steam Train” will quickly become a cult figure for the Wolfpack fans.
“It’s a magnificent coup for the Wolfpack to acquire Fui’s services,” said Rowley, who was head coach of Leigh on Moimoi’s arrival in England. “He’s an iconic brand and will add an additional physical presence to an already impressive line-up.
“His wealth of international and club experience will be a great benefit both on and off the pitch. I also think that our club fans, especially those based in Toronto and North America, will love his free-flowing and aggressive style of play, as we all know, he has left dents all over Australia, New Zealand and the UK.”
Moimoi is the seventh player recruited from Rowley’s old club but Toronto have also made signings from Australia and expect to unearth at least two players from North America and the West Indies following a series of trials.
“We’ve been to Vancouver, Toronto, Philadelphia and Tampa and we had an unbelievable eight days in Kingston, Jamaica,” Wolfpack director of rugby Brian Noble told the press conference.
“We’re basically trialling over 300 athletes and we’re bringing 18 over to the UK on December 10 to spend two weeks with us.
“If we sign two, three, four or five of those people into the competition in the UK, it offers a new career path and brings in a new audience and a new athletic base.”
The Canadian club are funding all travel costs for the visiting teams and Perez told the press conference that he hopes to attract full houses of 10,000 for their home games at Lamport Stadium in Liberty Village.
Toronto have signed a deal with Premier Sports to broadcast all of their 2017 and 2018 home and away matches in the UK and announced a partnership with Kappa to develop their official team kit and merchandise.
The League 1 season does not get under way until March but Wolfpack will play friendlies against Challenge Cup winners Hull on January 22 at the KCOM Stadium and Super League champions Wigan on February 5 at the Manchester Athletic Centre.
“As the newest club of the RFL it is a great honour to play two storied clubs, especially Wigan and Hull,” Noble said. “Playing the current Super League champions and Challenge Cup winners in our pre-season is a terrific motivator for our club, players and fans.”