Hull KR's Tony Smith not surprised by Toronto Wolfpack's Super League downfall

HULL KR head coach Tony Smith says his only surprise about Toronto Wolfpack pulling out of Super League is that it has not happened sooner.

Hull KR's Tony Smith (SWPIX)

The Robins chief pulled no punches on hearing the news the Canadian outfit declared it could not fulfil its fixtures in 2020 due to ongoing financial issues.

It has a big bearing on Hull KR who were left second-bottom of Super League when the competition was halted in March due to coronavirus with only winless Toronto below them.

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The East Yorkshire club were also due to face Wolfpack twice in the opening three weeks of Super League resuming next month, including the first fixture on August 2

But Smith told The Yorkshire Post: “I was going to say it’s been a bit of a shock but because we’ve got (former Toronto player) Ryan Brierley with us he’s had some contact with players recently.

“He hasn’t made much of a fuss – we haven’t talked as a squad about Toronto, we were just preparing for them in a few weeks’ time.

“But I’ve had conversations with him and he’s been telling me about things that have been going on for their players.

“There was an article at the weekend that firmed all that up.

Dual-code superstar Sonny Bill Williams, left, after being unveiled as a Toronto Wolfpack player last year with head coach Brian McDermott (SWPIX)

“What I found astonishing really is that with some of the things that have gone on at Toronto, for the last couple of years really, there hasn’t been much in the press on the negative.

“There’s been late payments to players for some time and on a number of occasions. When it was Bradford Bulls having their issues it was in the papers daily.

“I’m not sure how they’ve gone under the radar for so long with some of the issues that have been happening. Maybe we were all hopeful it would be a success and all got caught up into thinking let’s overlook some of the misdemeanours and look at how positive it is for the game.

“But I feel for the players there not knowing if they can pay for their mortgage or not.”

After months of uncertainty, the RFL Board finally decided last night that there would be no relegation from the - noting Toronto’s absence - ‘11-team’ Super League this season which serves as a relief for the likes of KR.

With a shortened season and such upheaval due to Covid, most clubs in the top-flight, understandably, had argued for there to be no demotion.

Some of the Championship leading lights, though, were keen for it to remain to give them a chance of reaching the top table.

Rovers, who were relegated in 2016 and finished joint-bottom last term, were one of those most at threat if it remained in place.

Indeed, owner Neil Hudgell - who has been calling for no relegation since April - said he would not invest any more of his own money until he knew there would be a safety net this year.

Smith admitted: “It’s good now to know they have seen sense.

“I hoped that the 11 teams that are still participating, are still running and are still viable would be safe and it’s good to see.”

After being furloughed for most of lockdown, Rovers returned to training last Monday to get prepared for facing Toronto at Emerald Headingley.

Obviously, that game will not now happen and Smith said: “The players are itching to play; they’ve not played for months and they need to play.

“There’ll be a disappointment that it will be another week. However, I think every coach and most players would tell you they’d like a month’s training to prepare to get fully ready physically for what is almost like a new season.

“It will only really affect us in that what we were doing to get ready for Toronto is that will just go a week later. We’ll probably do some extra hard work for another week and make sure we’re up to speed for contact and combat so, in some ways, physically, it’s probably ideal.

“The only other issue is that probably our first game will be against Warrington and then we’ll have another week off as we were due to play them (Toronto) again the week after.”

“But I couldn’t be more pleased with how they came back last week. They’re in great shape and are really enthusiastic at being back.”

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