RUGBY LEAGUE’S global expansion plans may take a new route with Sheffield Eagles potentially playing a Championship game against Brian McDermott’s Toronto Wolfpack in Serbia.
The 2019 fixtures have been announced for the new campaign with a series of intriguing contests lined up.
Toronto, who narrowly missed out on Super League with a 4-2 loss to London Broncos in last month’s final-ever Million Pound Game, start at newly-promoted York City Knights on Sunday, February 3.
It will be a tricky opener for four-time Grand Final-winning coach McDermott, sacked by Leeds Rhinos in July but now tasked with getting Wolfpack into the elite.
That said, it will be a difficult opening sequence of games; the harsh Canadian winter means the club cannot play at Lamport Stadium until late April so they must take up to four home games ‘on the road’, which leads to the prospect of them playing Sheffield in round nine in Belgrade.
Toronto’s home fixture with relegated Widnes Vikings on February 16 will be played at Newcastle’s Kingston Park as part of a double-header also featuring the League One clash between Newcastle Thunder and Doncaster.
Amid all the visionary ideas, though, there is also, thankfully, a nod to days of old.Dave Craven
Their home game against Batley Bulldogs will also feature somewhere in the UK. However, they are keen to expand the sport and are in talks with Sheffield and Red Star Belgrade – accepted to play in the Challenge Cup for the first time in 2019 – about boldly taking a contest to Serbia.
Amid all the visionary ideas, though, there is also, thankfully, a nod to days of old; all seven games in the opening Championship round will be played on Sunday, February 3. Newly-promoted Bradford host West Yorkshire rivals Featherstone Rovers as they continue in their own bid to return to the elite.
Halifax welcome Widnes, Batley entertain Barrow Raiders, Dewsbury Rams head to Rochdale Hornets and Sheffield entertain Swinton Lions.
Despite interest from Doncaster and Newcastle, the Summer Bash descends on Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road for the fifth successive year, this time over May 17-18 and including Bradford v Halifax, Batley v Dewsbury and York v Featherstone.
York’s first game in their new purpose-built stadium is scheduled against Bradford on the weekend of July 20, the club already targeting an 8,000 sell-out.
In League 1, Keighley Cougars, despite their ongoing financial issues, are listed to open at Whitehaven on Sunday, February 17.
Hunslet have a ‘bye’ and will start a week later.