The Wolfpack's quiet heartbeat, Josh McCrone looking to lead team to glory
Toronto has only lost once in 21 games, is eyeing promotion to Super League
He doesn't score the most tries. He doesn't boast the most points. He doesn't make the biggest hits.
But he is always there — guiding, encouraging, and putting in a shift.
Josh McCrone is the quiet heartbeat of the Toronto Wolfpack. The 32-year-old Australian has evolved into what every team needs. The importance of a reliable, level headed leader cannot be overstated.
He does the simple things well. McCrone is by no means the fastest or the biggest but he gets the team moving offensively. His handling and passing is dependable and his kicking game is an asset when the moment presents itself.
McCrone's experience is key. It was pivotal to the Wolfpack's hard fought win over Featherstone last week. He set up Gareth O'Brien for an early score, and later had the confidence to drive for the line himself with the game in the balance.
He has a big responsibility. McCrone takes the job of captain seriously and commands the respect of his team mates. The Wolfpack's success can be attributed to a number of factors, one of which is the way the players conduct themselves on and off the field. McCrone sets the tone.
His influence will only increase in the coming months. McCrone has not missed a game this season — a testament to his fitness and professionalism. He is also the man charged with leading the team through the playoffs in search of promotion glory.
Aspirations of promotion
A glance at the standings confirms Toronto's superiority. A single loss in 21 games is proof the Wolfpack have more than enough offensive weapons to enter the post-season as the red hot favourite to claim the coveted prize of a place in Super League.
But there is no guarantee. If there were, the Wolfpack would have already graduated.
McCrone and his players are acutely aware of the cruel reality of playoff rugby. It is the same game but a different mindset. When the stakes are raised in a win or go home scenario, the ability to handle the pressure, individually and as a unit, is crucial.
In that sense, the remaining regular season games represent a chance to get as comfy as possible. The next couple of outings will be a good test as the Wolfpack prepares itself, physically and mentally, for the seemingly inevitable end game.
Toronto is gearing up for its final road trip. Its next two games are in the U.K. against teams once considered rugby league royalty. Widnes and Bradford are not the powerhouses they once were, but both will be gunning for the Wolfpack.
Financial mismanagement has struck the Vikings hard. The club was deducted 12 points for going into administration earlier this year and despite a winning season, Widnes has already been eliminated from playoff contention.
It is no surprise the Vikings have been inconsistent. But Widnes is a proud club with a strong fan base, hoping for a return to former glories. It has won its last four home games and the locals would like nothing more than an upset victory over the Wolfpack.
Toronto cannot afford to ease up. A win at Widnes will secure top spot in the Championship standings and a first round bye in the playoffs. It is only a matter of time before the Wolfpack locks up first place.
What then? Head Coach Brian McDermott could take the opportunity to rest some senior players and allow them to recharge for the post season. But that could lead to vulnerability on the field and hand opponents the initiative.
Winning is a habit and McDermott won't want anything to disrupt the momentum. Some tough choices lie ahead, but McDermott is judged on results. The Wolfpack must plan accordingly.