Across the world in recent years, it has been remarkable to see the way in which women’s sport has become a talking point even for people who previously wouldn’t have considered it to be even a close relative of the men’s version. Soccer, rugby and boxing are just three sports in which female teams and performers have commanded attention that wouldn’t have been imaginable just a few years ago.
While gridiron football is yet to catch up to this level of parity, the principle remains, and women are showing their ability in leagues such as the WWCFL and the CCWFL. These leagues are, at present, amateur and may not receive the same level of attention as the men’s versions, but they do represent a chance for women and girls to get involved, and something on which they can build. Canadian online sportsbooks have taken bets on the women’s leagues since betting became legal here. And while male CFL players and more prominently the stars of the NFL get the attention, there is certainly a pantheon of women’s Canadian football players who can inspire others to take up the sport.
A really good linebacker can be the star of a team by being involved in pretty much every play on defence, rushing the passer on one play and dropping back to cover a tight end the next. The NFL is just realising this, but they could have asked Julie Paetsch, whose all-action performances for the Saskatoon Valkyries have made her one of the world’s most recognised women’s football players. Also a contributor on special teams, Paetsch is perhaps the primary reason that the Valkyries have so dominated the WWCFL, and she’s also represented her country at the highest level.
On suiting up for the CJFL’s Saskatoon Hilltops, Emmarae Dale broke a significant glass ceiling – she became the first female player to represent a team in the league. And if you’re thinking that she appeared as a kicker or something like that, stop: she’s a linebacker whose ferocity in the tackle belies her 5’7, 185lb size. She’s also not some gimmick selection, she plays most downs and more than carries her own weight. A future career in a pro league is touch-and-go, with no professional women’s leagues to speak of right now and some debate over whether she could ever enter the CFL, but her mere existence makes it more likely that the women’s game will attract the funding it needs to grow.
The Matheson family’s impact on WWCFL football is so complete that you could pick any one of three names to be in this spot – Crystal, Sam or Makenna. However, we’ll pick Crystal, given that she both played for the Valkyries and also gave birth to Sam and Makenna. She’s now the team’s equipment manager, but played as a defensive back on the most dominant team in the league before the pandemic forced cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 seasons. She has even came up against daughter Sam, a running back, in practice more than once.
As an acute care nurse, Adrienne Zuck is skilled in providing comfort and relief to patients to others. As a DB for the Regina Riot ball club, she can also dole out a certain amount of discomfort to opposing ball carriers. An 11-season veteran with the Riot, Zuck is very much a leader on the field and in training, something else that may have a bit to do with her off-field career. At 34, she’s far from the oldest player out there and could still have a few seasons in her, something that won’t be music to the ears of any opponent.