‘Embrace Super League and stop moaning’ - Hull FC chairman’s blunt message to new boys Toronto Wolfpack
Just three years after forming, the ambitious Canadian club are preparing for their debut in the elite competition when they face Castleford Tigers at Emerald Headingley in just over a week’s time.
That is part of Super League’s first-ever double-header with Leeds Rhinos facing Hull in the other contest on Februray 2.
Toronto, of course, have signed dual-code superstar Sonny Bill Williams as a ‘marquee’ player on the biggest contract in rugby history but head coach Brian McDermott recently lamented the limitations of the sport’s salary cap.
Indeed, he revealed the club are working with the RFL and looking into special dispensation after conceding they may already have reached the £1.8m level.
That is despite only having 23 players in their squad and one of those – Greg Worthington – will start the season on loan at Featherstone Rovers.
Before earning promotion in last year’s Championship Final, Toronto had also agreed to not take any central funding as part of their bid for Super League inclusion but Wolfpack chairman Bob Hunter also now wants to renegotiate that with the clubs.
At Hull’s 2020 season media launch yesterday, Pearson told The Yorkshire Post: “We welcome Toronto into the league and the different perspectives they bring to things.
“But I think they should embrace Super League now rather than moan about it.
“All I’ve heard so far is that they don’t like this, they don’t like that and I read yesterday that they ‘inherited’ this (central funding) deal.
“They didn’t ‘inherit’ it. They negotiated it three years ago and were desperate to sign it so to say now that they’d like to renegotiate it, I find that a bit strange.
“And if they want to spend three million pounds on one player then that’s their call but don’t then belly-ache about getting cap dispensation or needing more money.
“We spend our money accordingly.”
He admitted he was surprised at Toronto’s squad-building being so minimal.
Pearson, who has helped revive Hull’s fortunes with back-to-back Challenge Cup wins in 2016 and 2017, said: “It’s a long season and we know that you need 27, 28 maybe 30 players.
“They’ve gone down a different route and that’s their call but don’t moan about it now you’ve made that decision.
“They bring a different vision and a different look but it’s a massive season for the sport,” said Pearson.
“Get behind Super League and start being positive about it as it’s got a lot to offer.
“Let’s see what they can deliver to Super League as part of the package.”
Now preparing for his ninth full season in charge since buying the East Yorkshire club, Pearson believes Toronto are in danger of losing some of the goodwill that has already been afforded them.
“The Super League chairmen and owners all get on really well and we have one common focus,” he said.
“That is to make the product as exciting as it possibly can be in the two years to the next broadcast deal.
“I read all this rubbish about how we’re losing our best players to the NRL. It’s nonsense.
“The players coming over here are far superior to the ones going out there.
“We’ve Gareth Widdop back, George Burgess, Manu Ma’u, James Maloney at Catalans but who are the players going to the NRL? They’re all coming here.
“So let’s promote that rather than keep going on about players leaving.
“I’m sure Wigan are happy to have Jackson Hastings as a replacement for George Williams so there’s not a lot wrong with the sport.
“We just need to promote it better. We’ve got a full house at Headingley to start with; a fantastic occasion, a really great stadium and two cracking games.
“So let’s talk about that rather than salary cap. We don’t break it in Super League. And if we do it’s by about £4,000 not four million.”