WHEN Dane Chisholm first started out at Mullumbimby Giants in New South Wales he could never have imagined one day featuring for Featherstone Rovers against Toronto Wolfpack in Canada for a place in Super League.
For one, Wolfpack did not even exist. Plus not many Australians knew too much about the West Yorkshire town of Featherstone, although – as small as it is – it is still far bigger than Mullumbimby which had a population of barely 3,500 at the last count.
Yet Chisholm, the 29-year-old half-back who first arrived on these shores with Hull KR in 2015, could not even have envisaged tonight’s Championship Grand Final in Ontario just a few months ago let alone 15 years.
“I played against Featherstone back in round one,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“I was at Bradford Bulls. I’d definitely not have imagined this happening.
“I wouldn’t have ever dreamed of coming here and having the chance to take Featherstone into Super League. It’s pretty big.
“It’d be massive if we did do it. Dare to dream. I love it here and I’d love to be part of making such a big part of history at this club.
“It’s a pretty special group we’ve got here and all the boys just want to work for each other.
“It’s obviously a part-time club and to get to where we are – this Grand Final – speaks for itself in terms of how much we want to play for each other and how committed we are as a group.
“We’re all looking forward to taking on Toronto and I’m glad to be staying here for another three years as there’s big things happening at Fev.”
France international Chisholm, a mercurial half-back who honed his talent alongside Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith after making Melbourne Storm’s first-team squad, scored the winning drop-goal when Bradford beat Featherstone 17-16 in that opening round in February.
A fall-out with coach John Kear, though, led to his surprise exit in April and Featherstone are reaping the rewards. Sometimes accused of going away from the game-plan at former clubs, it cannot be said of his time at Rovers where he has helped forge their remarkable run from fifth to this lucrative end-game.
But can Ryan Carr’s side really actually win away from home for the fourth successive weekend at sides who finished above them?
To put it into context, the salaries of Toronto’s marquee players – former Cronulla Sharks centre Ricky Leutele and ex-Manly Sea Eagles prop Darcy Lussick – alone is far greater than the wage bill of the entire Featherstone squad.
Silky stand-off Josh McCrone was in the Canberra Raiders side the day Chisholm made his solitary NRL Storm appearance in 2011 and former England international Jon Wilkin won the treble and played more than 400 games for St Helens and Chase Stanley represented New Zealand.
Toronto have won 26 of their 27 games this season but were similarly formidable last year only to freeze in the only fixture that truly mattered – the Million Pound Game. London Broncos won that day to earn promotion at their expense and Featherstone – who have experience of winning at Lamport Stadium, having defeated Wolfpack there last year – believe they can do likewise.
There is certainly no pressure on them as Chisholm attested: “Toronto are definitely the favourites for a reason and have quality all over the park.
“But our confidence is sky-high right now after winning these last three games at Leigh, York and Toulouse. That’s been huge and we’ve put some decent scores on.
“Carry’s come up with a game plan and it’s up to us to put that game plan on out on the field. We know what we’re up against but we’ll throw everything at them.”
When Division One was split to make way for Super League in 1995, Featherstone missed the cut by just one place so few could argue they have not served their time. But, equally so, Toronto would bring something entirely new and exciting to the top table.
Eighty minutes decides it all.