While not representing Nova Scotia, seven from this province exercised some interprovincial free trade to compete in the inaugural Canadian women’s tackle football championships last week.
The players — Karen Gould, Maggie Henderson, Shana Hendsbee, Dianne Ikeda, Frederica Jacks, Natasha McMaster and Tina Wilkinson — joined team New Brunswick for the tournament.
The championships, held at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, featured teams from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and New Brunswick.
The seven players are members of Halifax Xplosion, which plays in the Maritime Women’s Football League, the first women’s tackle football league in Canada.
The league consists of four teams, three of which are based in New Brunswick.
“The average age of our team is in the 30s, a lot of women have children,” said Jacks.
New Brunswick opened up the tournament with a 58-0 to Saskatchewan last Thursday.
“I was a really great experience,” said Hendsbee. “Saskatchewan was an extremely tough team. They were really great athletes.”
Team New Brunswick lost their second game 30-12 to Alberta.
“We improved immensely during the second game,” said Jacks. “We really played our hearts out.”
Hendsbee, 37, said it was tough initially teaming up with the New Brunswick players because players had to learn new formations and plays.
“I learned so much about football,” she said.
This is Hendsbee’s second season playing football. She began playing because her two sons played football and the coaches convinced her to try.
“It kept me active and it gave me something to do,” she said.
The tournament was about more than wins and losses. Both Jacks and Hendsbee said events like this are crucial to growing the sport of women’s tackle football.
“We’ve been working on trying to get more involvement,” said Jacks. “Most people have no idea (women’s tackle football) is even really a sport.”
This is also Jacks’ second year playing tackle football, she played touch and flag football before trying out tackle.
“I made a lot of new friends,” she said. “It’s definitely by far the best sport I’ve played so far.”
On top of the tournament, there was also a Team Canada practice where players were divided into positional groups to be evaluated for future Team Canada international tournaments.
Hendsbee hopes one day enough girls will start playing football to have their own league, which could feed players to Halifax Xplosion.
“It would be nice if more women could come and try it,” she said.
This was the inaugural edition of the women’s national championship, but in 2012 Montreal hosted a women’s challenge cup with a series of mini-games.
Quebec went 4-0 in the tournament while team Atlantic went 2-2. For more information on the Halifax Xplosion, visit: www.xplosionwomenstacklefootball.ca.