With two regular season games remaining the Toronto Wolfpack are starting to look ahead.
The Wolfpack will maintain nearly the same lineup as it had in its 46-0 win over the Rochdale Hornets two weeks ago when it faces the Barrow Raiders at Lamport Stadium on Saturday (1 p.m.).
And there is good reason to settle into some continuity. The team is just three weeks away from its first playoff game on Sept. 22 and coach Brian McDermott wants to establish how his team will approach the business end of the season.
“We’re starting to gear into the playoffs and the grand final,” he said. “We’re trying to get there with performance, team selection, attitude, and some of the psychology to it.”
“We’re starting to think about what it’s going to be like five weeks time in the grand final.”
The Wolfpack (24-1), winners of 19 consecutive matches, will of course not be satisfied until it qualifies for and wins the Oct. 5 game that puts them in the Super League in 2020. So for McDermott, that means drilling down to the little things which if they are not checked, can easily be exploited in the playoffs.
“My job has shifted from ‘let’s be as good as we can be’ to ‘why did we fail,’” he said. “If Toulouse, Leigh, or Featherstone are beating us, why are they beating us? And what can we do to stop them from doing it.”
The main focus in these final weeks is to keep the team healthy and make sure nothing happens that might cause issues. Rochdale, as many teams have this season, did try to get under the skin of some of the Wolfpack players and teams looking for an edge in the playoffs may want to get a Toronto player to cross the line, something the team is working very hard to avoid.
“I’m making sure that we control what we can control,” McDermott said.
Barrow (4-20-1), who were promoted from League One with the Wolfpack in 2017, will be heading back to the third-tier next season along with Rochdale.
The Wolfpack will honour Canadian Armed Forces personnel and their families at Saturday’s game. For McDermott, who once served in the British Royal Marines, this is a special occasion.
“In a contact sport, for a small snapshot, you have to do a job in which you know if you follow through with it, you will come out of it worse, pain, injury, possibly serious injury,” he said. “For that small snapshot, 15 seconds, they have tapped into what it is like for the military when they’re doing their job at an extreme level.”
McDermott doesn’t dwell on his service but he is proud of what he accomplished in that part of his life and the ways it has helped him career-wise.
“There’s a lot deep down there that helps you make decisions, make judgements,” he said.
“And while I don’t carry it around me, there isn’t a day that goes by where you don’t think about it.”