TORONTO — The newly promoted Toronto Wolfpack have beefed up their roster for life in the second-tier of English rugby league, signing four players with some heavyweight credentials.
Fresh off winning the Kingstone Press League 1 title to secure promotion, the Wolfpack have added Australians Dave Taylor and Josh McCrone, Albanian-born Olsi Krasniqi and Fiji international Ashton Sims for next season's campaign in the second-tier Championship.
As a fully professional side, the Wolfpack (19-1-1) steamrollered their semi-pro opposition in starting life in the third tier. But coach Paul Rowley, who has had to come up with 13 starters plus a four-man bench each outing — did it with a small squad of some 22 players due to a tight budget this season.
Rowley estimates he will need eight or nine more players next season in the Championship, where fully pro teams will be the norm. Work on adding to the roster has been going on for months.
Widnes back Tom Armstrong was the first announced addition, with his 2018 arrival revealed last week. The 27-year-old Armstrong, who has a master's degree in petroleum engineering, is a centre who can all play wing and fullback.
Taylor, a load at six foot two and 288 pounds whose nickname is Coal Train, is the most colourful of the new recruits.
A former Australian international forward who has represented Queensland in the rugby league cauldron State of Origin series, Taylor arrives with some baggage.
Currently a member of the Canberra Raiders, he has also played in the elite NRL for the Brisbane Broncos, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Gold Coast Titans. And he had a stint with the Catalans Dragons in England's Super League.
The 29-year-old Taylor, a former golden boy who made his NRL debut at 17, found himself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons when he pleaded guilty last November to possessing cocaine in late 2014. He was reportedly making C$485,800 at the time for the Titans.
Taylor escaped with a fine of 1,000 Australian dollars (C$970) but avoided having a conviction recorded, which could have stopped him from playing overseas.
McCrone is a 30-year-old halfback currently with the St. George Illawarra Dragons but who has been linked to the Wolfpack for weeks. He has more than 150 NRL appearances, partnering with England halfback Gareth Widdop at the Dragons this season.
The 25-year-old Krasniqi has been a regular starter at prop in England for the Salford Red Devils.
Sims, 32, joined the Warrington Wolves in 2015 from the NRL's North Queensland Cowboys. He has made more than 90 appearances for the Super League Wolves.
The six-foot-three 242-pounder will finish out the season with Warrington (9-12-2).
Sims, whose contract is expiring with Warrington, played in both the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final and Betfred Super League Grand Final in 2016.
Toronto wraps up its first season Saturday at home to Doncaster.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press