Ambitious CCWFL would add new dimension to female football in Canada

With plans to launch in 2015, the Central Canadian Women’s Football League holds the potential to make the game of female football one that is truly coast-to-coast. Based out of Nobleton, Ontario (located north of Toronto), the league is aiming for a four-team league in its inaugural season.

For its planned 2015 season, all franchises shall compete in the Greater Toronto Area, while a projected two to four expansion teams shall be added every year afterwards, with the goal of having a province-wide league. With the next IFAF Women’s World Football Championships taking place in 2017, it would be a tremendous triumph should the CCWFL manage to provide some players for the Canadian contingent.

Although the league has not yet announced any information on the franchises, let alone any coaches or potential managers, early partnerships have been arranged in the hopes of developing talent. Its most notable involves the Super Elite Football, which is sponsored by Under Armour. In 2013, SEF held camps in three provinces with over 1000 players participating.

While SEF has never held a female football camp before, it still holds the potential to serve as a measuring stick as to whether potential players have the ability or not. With due deference, there is no question that the concept of a female camp is a work in progress and will only improve with time. Taking into account that instructors feature CFL players and university coaches, it is the most fundamental learning tool available to women in Ontario to develop football skills.

For potential players intimidated by the concept of a camp, there is also the opportunity to engage the services of Toronto Argonauts wide receiver John Chiles. Offering one-on-one training for players looking to compete at the offensive positions of quarterback, running back and wide receiver, Chiles will assist in the instruction of technical skills, speed, agility and quickness.

An innovation that the CCWFL has introduced is its rookie status. Similar to NCAA Football teams redshirting players, the rookie status initiative is one where 16-17 year old players have the opportunity to get involved with their respective teams. Although they will not be permitted to play in any regular season or playoff contests, their designated rookie status would allow them to practice and train.

In theory, the CCWFL is a positive start in helping stimulate growth for the game in Canada’s largest region. Considering that Ontario has not been represented on the Canadian teams that captured silver at the 2010 and 2013 IFAF Worlds, such a trend cannot continue. With its population of over 10 million, Ontario certainly has elite talent that can one day contribute to a gold medal finish.

The goal of serving as the engine for growth of female football in Ontario is admirable. While there has been encouragement from the likes of Football Canada and Canadian leagues such as the MWFL and the WWCFL, this new league holds the potential to add a new dimension to female sport, creating with it new athletic heroes and the chance for many empowered women to become role models.

One of the great successes of female football in Canada is that it has allowed women of all ages, body types and backgrounds to transform their lives and experience the thrill of team sport. For other women who may have played competitive sports in the past, it helps add a new chapter to their athletic endeavors. Should the CCWFL be able to maintain this legacy, it shall certainly be a victory for the growth of female football in Canada.


Seattle Mist reload at quarterback position with two top-notch signal callers

The loss of Laurel Creel as the starting quarterback for the Seattle Mist was certainly a visceral one. After a 2013 regular season that saw the Mist enjoy an undefeated campaign and a division title, Creel had certainly grown into one of the elite passers in the Legends Football League.

Looking to build on such winning momentum in a promising 2014 campaign, the Mist have enjoyed an embarrassment of riches. With two new quarterbacks on the roster, not only have the Mist bolstered their lineup, but their names are very familiar with football fans in the Pacific Northwest.

Angela Rypien, whose father Mark earned Most Valuable Player honors in Super Bowl XXVI, and Mary-Anne Hanson, who led the BC Angels to the inaugural LFL Canada championship in 2012, have provided the Mist with two terrific options at the quarterbacking position. Although there are big shoes to fill in the absence of Creel, the solid team chemistry on the Mist reinforces that any outcome on the field is the result of a team effort.

The Canadian connection between the two runs strong. Rypien’s heritage can be traced back to Calgary, Alberta, the birthplace of her father. Had the 2013 LFL Canada season not been cancelled, Rypien had committed to competing for Calgary’s expansion franchise, otherwise known as the Fillies.

Mary-Anne Hanson was one of the charter players during LFL Canada’s inaugural season in 2012. Helping to lead the BC Angels to the first-ever league championship; she is joined on the Mist by Stevi Schnoor, who played alongside Hanson in 2012. As a side note, Hanson and Rypien are also mothers, providing them with another bit of common ground.

Rypien, who was once featured in Sports Illustrated (and graced the cover of FHM Indonesia) is certainly one of the most recognized and popular figures in the league. Having played for the Mist in 2010 and 2011, she is looking to rebound after a 2013 season with the Baltimore Charm did not meet championship expectations. Having started in the Mist’s season opener, she helped the squad to a 38-24 triumph over the Green Bay Chill.

As the demands of pro football (male and female) require two top-notch players at the quarterback position, Hanson and Rypien bring a tremendous stability to said position for the Mist. With a significant player turnover during the LFL offseason, no other franchise can boast two such strong acquisitions to replace their outgoing quarterback.

While the Mist have the most loyal fan base in the LFL, their fans are known affectionately as the 8th Man, anticipation towards a championship only grows with every season. Considering how other elite quarterbacks such as Anne Erler (formerly of the Chill) and Nikki Johnson (formerly with the Las Vegas Sin) are not playing this season, the level of competition may not pose as big a threat. As Rypien and Hanson continue to mature in their sparkling careers, it would be a fitting finish this year if the two could contribute towards a title in the football mad city of Seattle.

Queensland Brigade players venture into Deep South in order to improve their game

As the Legends Football League enters the 2014 season in the United States, a pair of players from Australia will be exposed to the on-field product. Jayne Caldwell and Tai Emery competed in the inaugural season of LFL Australia in late 2013 and will be the guests of the Atlanta Steam, a second-year franchise based in the Southern US.

Caldwell served as the starting quarterback for the Queensland Brigade while Emery competed on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Both are not only impromptu ambassadors for their respective league, but are making the journey to the South in order to improve their game.

With ambitions of becoming a global brand, the LFL is hoping the exposure of its Aussie players to the US will bear fruit. Eventually, the LFL is aiming for a World Cup event, in which champions from LFL US, Canada, Australia and Europe would compete in a playoff.

In a season that saw the Brigade finish with a .500 record, their first two games were blowout losses. Of note, the second game was a 41-0 whitewash which was subject to a significant amount of criticism, especially towards Caldwell, who struggled in the passing game with a chronic series of interceptions.

Based on the online criticism that Caldwell and her Queensland teammates received after that second consecutive loss, the initiative to bring them to Atlanta and expose them to another aspect of the league was well conceived. Unfortunately, the criticism concerning the team’s performance was somewhat uncalled for.

Comments such as missed practice time, not being in shape and lacking discipline with no leadership were out of line. With due deference, such comments should never have been published. Considering that players are not compensated for their efforts, balancing career, personal lives and athletic duties are not so easy.

As this was a new sport to all the participants on Queensland and throughout the rest of the Australian league, this was not an appropriate criticism for players who are not compensated. Should there be goals to expand rosters or add more teams, this may discourage potential competitors.

While Caldwell and Emery have not been deterred, their journey to the US is one that shows a willingness to learn. Steam head coach Dane Robinson, serving in his first season at the helm, shall be the liaison for the franchise. Practices and conditioning under his leadership shall be observed by Caldwell and Emery, with the hopes that it will promote a better preparation for the next Australian campaign.

Ironically, Caldwell may be of some assistance to the Steam. Robinson is not the only “rookie” in a key position with the Steam. His quarterback, Dakota Hughes is only 19 years old and she has the pressure of helping the Steam repeat as Southeast Division champions.

With the Steam opening their second season on the road against the Toledo Crush, having relocated from Cleveland, the contest shall prove to be a key test for Hughes. Considering that Caldwell has endured high pressure situations lining up behind centre with Queensland, she may be able to relate some of her experiences to Hughes.

As the program of visiting LFL US franchises may be an excellent concept to consider with future competitors in LFL Europe, it is essential to prevent what occurred in Australia with Queensland’s struggles. Upon reflection, it may have been wiser to have Australian players brought to the United States before regular season games were even played down under. Those involved must understand that growing pains and the patience to deal with them shall be essential in hoping to achieve any global ambitions.