TORONTO — Hemel Stags coach Troy Perkins knows he is headed for a hiding. But he's still looking forward to Saturday's date with the Toronto Wolfpack.
On paper, it's a mismatch of epic proportions as the top team in the Kingstone Press League 1 hosts the cellar-dweller.
The Wolfpack, a fully professional side forced to debut in the third tier of English rugby league, have outscored their opposition 842-141 en route to a 14-0-0 record. Hemel, which lost its first 12 games of the season, has been outscored 718-213 in compiling its 1-13-0 mark.
Put it another way, the Stags lost 82-0 to second-place Barrow, which was battered 70-2 by Toronto.
"We'll come over and just enjoy the experience," Perkins, a former Australian under-19 player who spent time in the NRL, said hopefully.
"It is definitely a mismatch," he added. "But all we can do is control what we can — and that's hold onto the ball and make our tackles ... That's all I can expect my players to (do), to front up and produce the best performance of the season.
"By no means am I expecting the best performance of the season to get a win but that we can hold our heads up after the game and know we've had a good crack."
The Stags are made up of students, teachers, mechanics, stone-masons and truck drivers, among others. The day jobs mean they train just twice a week.
"It's a far cry from what the Wolfpack will be doing," said Perkins, who has a sports coaching business for schools when not directing the Stags.
Not that he is complaining. The Hemel coach is all for the new Toronto team and transatlantic rugby league.
"I think the Wolfpack are fantastic for the game and anyone who thinks otherwise is very narrow-minded," he said enthusiastically. "The game itself isn't an international game as such, not compared to rugby union. So the more we can make people aware of the game, which is a fantastic game, the better."
"It wasn't their choice to be in League 1," he added.
The Stags are looking forward to playing before a big crowd Saturday. Toronto drew 7,139 for last weekend's 62-10 victory over the Gloucestershire All Golds. Hemel had 131 on hand for its recent 25-18 win over the visiting South Wales Ironmen, according to loverugbyleague.com.
Based in Hemel Hempstead some 40 kilometres northwest of London, the Stags are not in traditional rugby league country. Formed in 1981 as an amateur side, the team entered the semi-pro Kingstone Press League 1 in 2013.
The 40-year-old Perkins came on board in 2006 as a player-coach before moving to the sidelines full time five years ago.
Saturday's game is the final outing for Toronto before the July 30 start of the so-called Super 8s round. The top eight teams in the 16-club league will play each other once, with points from the first half carrying over.
The team atop the standings after the Super 8s round is automatically promoted to the second-tier Championship. The second- and third-place teams will play off for the second promotion spot.
The Wolfpack will play their first three games of the round in England before hosting the final four.
Toronto continues to battle injuries.
Russ Brierley, Andrew Dixon, Quentin Laulu-Togaga'e, Ryan Bailey, Richard Whiting, Gary Wheeler, Jonny Pownall and Fuifui Moimoi all missed some training time this week.
"We're healthy enough to be able to rest a couple of bodies,' said assistant coach Simon Finnigan, seeing the glass half-full.
Wednesday's training session featured 16 players, one less than the number that dresses game day.
Moimoi and Pownall are likely to play, as is Blake Wheeler who has returned from an ankle injury. Victoria teenager Quinn Ngawati, who debuted last week, continues with the club.
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