Canada joins rugby league... in 1943

The story of rugby league in Canada has reached a new and exciting stage with the success of the Toronto Wolfpack. But as  you can hear in my League Culture podcast, the history of Canadian rugby league stretches back over 80 years.

Below, I've reprinted one of the most important documents of that history, the November 1943 letter to the RFL secretary John Wilson from John MacCarthy, Canadian rugby's leading coach and journalist. You can read more about MacCarthy in Doug Sturrock's comprehensive history of Canadian rugby union, It's a Try - The History of Rugby in Canada.

As could be expected from a committed expansionist such as Wilson (he masterminded the expansion of rugby league to France in the early 1930s), a reply was despatched immediately answering MacCarthy's questions and telling him that the RFL 'desire to assist you to the utmost of our ability' despite being in the midst of World War Two.

MacCarthy was vindicated and league became the leading sport in Nova Scotia in the 1940s, but changes in Canadian society and the inability of the RFL to take advantage of the opportunity across the Atlantic led to it vanishing in the early 1960s. Seventy-five years after this historic letter, let's hope that the game doesn't miss today's opportunity to correct one of rugby league's great missed opportunities.

Credit: RFL Archives

Credit: RFL Archives