And we’re off.

So here we are, Round 20 of the BetFred Championship.¬†Toronto are currently 7 points clear at the top of the table and have confirmed their place in the middle 8’s. A win this week would see us awarded the League Leaders Shield.

My family have been here for 3 weeks and the sun is shining. A lot. It seems surreal that we no longer have a home in England and that Claire sold my car whilst I wasn’t there as I wouldn’t be needing it again.

‘What about when I go back to England for the middle 8’s?’

‘I didn’t think about that…….’

Anyway, everything is as good as it could be and whilst trying not to think about it, there is a little cloudy patch at the back of my head niggling at me, letting me know that in 11 games time I will be setting up for my last game with the Wolfpack for a while. Even though the journey hasn’t finished yet, I can safely say that this has easily been my best experience in Rugby to date. A big testament to how the club has been run. I genuinely see the future of Rugby League including several North American clubs in a North American / European conference style league. I understand that anyone that hasn’t experienced the fervour over here will be sceptical. And I understand that some feel that expansion should begin in the UK. I’m not going to bang on about it as mostly every player / fan / official that has made the journey has gone home buzzing about where Rugby League could and maybe, should end up. It’s easy for those who haven’t been to throw disparaging or derogatory comments. But those who previously have, and then have visited, have very often changed their tune.

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So I now have to start looking towards my travels post-season and what I will be doing to fill my time. Although there’s the children to look after and home school, I’m going to make the trip a learning experience for myself. As we visit different countries, I’m going to look to visit different sporting teams to see how different teams, in different sports, utilise and perform their coaching and analysis. It’s a journey of development and one that, when I think about it, is an amazing opportunity to develop my own expertise and knowledge. We will be looking to visit at least 5 different continents and I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of anyone that has had such an opportunity and now I can’t wait to start looking at ¬† which teams we’ll be near, which teams I’ve got contacts in and which sports may be worthwhile having a look at. It’s a whole new adventure in itself that will benefit me massively in the long run!

It would seem that the last 2 years with the Wolfpack was just the beginning….

A New Dawn….

Okay, this is more of an apology to myself. When I started my blog, I desperately wanted not to be one of those bloggers whose posts tail off and die. There is always time to write a couple of paragraphs, always time to note down a couple of thoughts. But life got the better of me and I tailed off just as things got interesting…

In October 2017, I joined Toronto Wolfpack as their Performance Analyst on a full time contract. As part of the contract, I was also to coach Manchester Metropolitan University’s Rugby League team. Toronto and Manchester Metropolitan had just announced an amazing partnership that would see Toronto be based and train at the Universities world-class facility at Platt Lane and the University’s Rugby League team also trained and played there.

Everything went brilliantly, Toronto were playing well, the University team were playing well. It was all going according to plan. Toronto were top of the league and the University team got into the promotion playoffs. Then the bombshell dropped….

My wife and I had talked about me travelling with the team when we went to play our home games in Toronto. Due to our ground having renovations, we were to be in Toronto for 8 or 9 weeks. A long time without your family. We considered them coming over for a while but school holidays and Claire’s work just didn’t add up.

My wife runs her own business, babyballet. It has expanded from the UK to Australia and New Zealand. She had also had enquiries from some dance teachers in other countries and Claire explained that she would love to go and visit these counties with a view to further expansion. One of these countries was Canada and soon enough the idea had formed about us taking the kids out of school and going on a ‘world’ tour. The more we talked, the more excited we got and said ‘why not?’

And that was the bombshell. I now had to make a decision about going on a world tour and showing my children sites they would only ever get to see in textbooks or staying in, what I believe, is one of the best analysis jobs in sport! I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I have to choose between 2 amazing choices, work or family. I suppose deep down I always knew that family would come first…

I discussed the ‘predicament’ with the management at Toronto and they were really supportive. It was an opportunity that I can’t turn down but one thing that I had always maintained was that it wasn’t going to happen until the season had ended.

And so there we have it. We’ve been back in Toronto for two weeks now and tomorrow, Family O’Connor arrive after renting our home and selling everything that we can’t bring with us to begin the first leg of our journey – 2 months in Canada.