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Gareth O’Brien has vivid memories of the 2016 Million Pound Game.

“Most nervous I’ve ever been,” the Toronto Wolfpack fullback said. “Some boys were struggling sleeping. The amount of pressure on the game is immense.”

O’Brien was the hero that day, his extra-time drop goal capping an amazing Salford comeback against Hull Kingston Rovers. The one-pointer gave Salford, which trailed 18-10 with two minutes remaining, a 19-18 win.

Salford stayed in the Super League while Hull KR were relegated to the second-tier Betfred Championship.

Simon Gelder, the Wolfpackès equipment manager, was also with Salford. He recalls how the winners gave their victory song a miss that day, out of respect for Hull KR, whose locker room was next to theirs.

“It was a surreal feeling winning,” O’Brien said. “It wasn’t nice seeing the other side of the coin.”

Toronto welcomes London Broncos on Sunday with a place in the top-flight Super League on the line. Whatever happens – the bookies favour Toronto – it’s a remarkable story given the transatlantic Wolfpack have only been around two seasons.

Should Toronto win, it will mark another international triumph in rugby league. Catalan Dragons, the lone French team in the top tier, won the Challenge Cup in August – the first time the storied trophy has left England in its 121-year history.

This looks to be the final Million Pound Game. In August, Super League clubs voted to scrap the Super 8s Qualifiers – which saw the bottom four Super League teams face off with the top four from the Championship – with a simple one-up, one-down promotion-relegation format.

The top-three teams in the Super 8 Qualifiers secure automatic promotion with No. 4 facing No. 5 in the Million Pound Game, so-named because it represents the difference in money a Super League club receives from the sport’s governing body over a Championship club.

“It sounds dramatic and it is,” Toronto coach Paul Rowley said. “For two Championship sides to be in it is quite exciting because, effectively, it’s a cup final now.”

The top four teams all finished with 5-2-0 records and 10 points with Salford Red Devils, Leeds Rhinos and Hull KR finishing 1-2-3 on points difference. The Wolfpack finished fourth, 17 point behind on point differential after Hull KR blanked Widnes 30-0 on the final day of play.

That meant a home date with London (4-3-0, eight points) in the promotion showdown.

“It’s all down to the wire now. Two teams that both have done remarkably well,” said Rowley, a former England hooker.

Championship sides went 6-10 against Super League foes in Super 8s Qualifiers play, with Toronto and London each contributing two wins.

The Hull KR-Widnes games wasn’t on TV in England, so about a dozen Wolfpack players gathered in a pub near Manchester to listen to it on the radio.

“We had glasses of water while the game was on. Praying and hoping that we could move on to beer but it wasn’t to be,” O’Brien said.

“It went as expected,” Rowley said of the game that forced another transatlantic flight.

Should Toronto win Sunday, its financial windfall may have to be negotiated with the Rugby Football League. Also on the table is whether the Wolfpack will continue to pay for visiting team’s travel and accommodation in Toronto.

Widnes, the lone Super League team relegated, will get a £500,000 ($841,230) parachute payment to help it adjust to life in the lower leagues.

The Wolfpack are coming off a memorable 17-16 win at Leeds Rhinos in a game decided by another O’Brien drop goal, this time from 45 metres out with five minutes remaining. Rowley says the physical contest took its toll.

“We came through pretty busted up, but that’s been the caseç every week. So again, it’s nothing different and lads who are fit will play,” Rowley said. “Risks won’t be taken. We’ve got a good medical staff who have been brilliant all year and they’re working hard at the minute.”

Toronto won two of three meetings with the Broncos this season. London won 47-16 at home in February and Toronto came out on top 32-12 at Lamport Stadium in June. The Wolfpack downed the visiting Broncos 34-22 in Super 8s Qualifiers play in September.

The Wolfpack started play in 2017 in the third-tier League 1, topping the table with a 23-2-1 record in all competitions. Toronto is 27-5-1 in all competitions this year.

In essence, the Wolfpack have been a Super League team in waiting. Championship and Super League teams both operated under a £1.9-million ($3.2-million) salary cap this year, and the Wolfpack, while keeping their roster small, have not skimped on salary.

Just as Major League Soccer has designated players – star talent whose salaries only partly counts against the salary cap – rugby league has marquee players. Toronto is expected to make Samoan international centre Ricky Leutele, who played for the Cronulla Sharks in Australia’s NRL this season, a marquee player next season.

Over all, Toronto is 50-7-2 in competitive play with losses to Super League’s Salford (twice), Hull Kingston Rovers and Warrington Wolves – with two of those losses coming in Challenge Cup play – as well as London and Featherstone Rovers (both in Championship play) and York City (League 1 play).

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