Sports editor Mike Parsons casts his eye over an historic Super League weekend...

SUPER League will be reinvigorated next season, and it could not be more timely.

That’s my view following a historic weekend in the 13-a-side game, with lots of impact on Warrington Wolves.

Canadian outfit Toronto Wolfpack won the Million Pound Game against Featherstone Rovers on Saturday night and so will become the first non-European team to join the top flight.

And on Friday night Salford shone a torch for those ‘unfashionable’ clubs with a history of Super League struggles by reaching, quite unexpectedly but deservedly, the Grand Final for the first time.

While the arrival of the Wolfpack in Super League has been brewing for two years or more, prior to that many supporters of the sport would have laughed their socks off at the suggestion.

They’d have done the same at the mention of Salford reaching the Grand Final beyond a month or so ago.

But for these to happen is refreshing at the end of a Super League campaign that felt stale at times, indicated by St Helens being a million times better than anybody else throughout the campaign.

There will always be doubters about ‘expansionist’ clubs, as there were when Catalans Dragons – although based in French rugby league heartland - took their place in the competition in 2006.

But the progress in Toronto over the past few years, which has manifested in sell-out crowds at Lamport Stadium and a record 9,974 for the Million Pound Game, has to be embraced and encouraged by a fantastic sport that is much loved by too few and finds itself constantly needing the boost of some good news.

The scenes on TV on Saturday with a packed stadium and carnival atmosphere were uplifting, just three seasons after establishing.

This is just the start for the world’s first professional transatlantic sporting team, whose dominant Championship-shield winning campaign was aided by Warringtonians Gareth O’Brien and Joe Mellor as well as further ex-Wire stars in the shape of Ashton Sims in his retirement year, Matty Russell, Bodene Thompson, Andy Ackers and Gary Wheeler.

Warrington Guardian:

Gareth O'Brien in kicking mode for Toronto this year. Picture: SWpix

Warrington Guardian:

Matty Russell celebrates a try with Toronto temmates in the Million Pound Game. Picture: SWpix

With matches to savour against the Super League big guns like Warrington, St Helens, Wigan, Leeds and Hull in 2020 the passion and development can only grow stronger, as it did in the south of France with Catalans Dragons - although this is clearly on a different level with being outside traditional rugby league territory.

I’m not going to say their Super League spot comes without issues, because there will be some.

And many that will be more complicated than worrying about how many will attend next year’s Grand Final at Old Trafford if the two teams contending are Toronto Wolfpack and Catalans Dragons.

But the sport has been criticised in the past for not jumping with all guns blazing on an opportunity when it arises and in the sports-mad city of Toronto, which loves to back a winning team in whatever sport, there’s a catalyst to reach an even wider audience in North America.

That only happens when one club with a vision makes things happen and treads a path that others can then follow. Interested parties in Ottawa and New York will be watching very closely.

Why would any of us, with a desire to see the sport flourishing, not want to give this brave and ambitious organisation every chance to bring what it can to the party.

I understand there will be fans of clubs like Warrington who like to go to every game home and away but may not be able to afford to go to Canada to watch their favourites play, and no doubt some will feel frustrated by this. Hopefully TV will provide some form of solution, but we do sometimes have to think about the bigger picture.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve no doubt there have already been excited fans checking out potential flight routes and hotels, places of interest etc in Toronto ahead of the announcement of next year’s fixtures.

Don’t get too giddy with that one until the fixtures are confirmed, because not all of Toronto’s home games will be played in Canada.

Due to the harsh winter conditions over the Atlantic, any home games they have before the end of April are likely to be on the road – three of their ‘home’ games this year were played in Newcastle, Hull and London.

On a final note about Toronto, as part of their agreement in promotion to Super League they will not be receiving any central funding in 2020. That means that the 11 other clubs, including Warrington, will receive an additional equal share in ‘their’ £2m instead.

It’s clearly exciting times for the game in Canada, but just down the road in Salford too.

They haven’t had a sniff of the Grand Final since Super League began but a fantastic conclusion to the season means they have turned 11th spot last year into the chance to be crowned champions when they face St Helens at Old Trafford on Saturday.

It’s another club with which Warringtonian Tyrone McCarthy has found success since leaving The Wire – he enjoyed title success in Australia and skippered Hull KR to the Challenge Cup Final in 2015.

Warrington Guardian:

Tyrone McCarthy, the former Woolston Rovers junior who came through the ranks at Wire, celebrates reaching the Grand Final with Salford Red Devils. Picture: PAwire

Their head coach Ian Watson has assembled a team that work extremely hard for one another.

He has players in his ranks who have been around a while but had been cast aside by other clubs and somehow Watson has given them a new lease of life, given them some pride and belief.

And they have a sensational half-back Jackson Hastings, who will be joining Wigan next season, pulling the strings for them.

But they came from nowhere with an end-of-season winning run to finish third, hammer Castleford 22-0 in their semi-final and then Wigan on their own turf 28-4 in Friday’s preliminary final.

For me, no matter what happens at Old Trafford, Salford have shown that a team unfancied at the start of the year and backed by average crowds of a little more than 3500, can go all the way. Anything is possible.

I think this is going to be huge for the competition next year.

Every team will be motivated with fresh belief that the Super League is no longer a monopoly, having only previously been won by Leeds, Wigan, St Helens and Bradford – with Warrington, Hull and Castleford the only other sides to reach the Grand Final.

And therefore every team knows they will have to step up their game to be among the honours next season and, also, to avoid the dreaded 12th spot that brings relegation.

Salford’s success can drive higher standards next year and Toronto’s arrival adds an extra dimension of excitement like we’ve not seen since Catalans Dragons joined the good ship.

This is a promising state of affairs going into the crucial negotiations for a new TV deal that is the lifeblood of the sport.

Clubs, teams, players, fans all have a part to play in raising the bar next year to provide the best bargaining position.