Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Valkyries in the news

Valkyries have record number of players as interest in women's football grows
By Don Rice, The StarPhoenix, May 2, 2016

The only option for women who wanted to play tackle football as recently as six years ago in Saskatoon was to play on a men’s team.

It would be a huge understatement to say there has been a dramatic change since then.

The Saskatoon Valkyries, the first local women’s tackle football team, made their debut on May 22, 2011. Today, they are drawing record numbers of players, and interest in the women’s full-contact sport has never been higher in Saskatoon.

The 56-player roster the Valkyries currently field is nine more than their previous record roster of 47. The team downed the Edmonton Steel 30-17 in their only exhibition game of the season at SMF Field on Saturday.

“We had to order new jerseys, because we wouldn’t have had enough,” said Valkyries general manager Michelle Duchene about the player boom. “It definitely is a nice problem to have.”

Photo compliments of Liam Richards, The StarPhoenix
The growing rosters over the years is the indirect result of Team Canada women’s football team tryouts in Saskatoon back in 2010. Only three Saskatoon players were invited to those tryouts, with two joining the team. The camp was held in Saskatoon mainly because of the central location for teams from Alberta and Manitoba.

From those original two Team Canada players, the desire for a tackle football team was identified in Saskatoon. The Saskatoon Valkyries began play less than a year later with an original 34 player roster.

Saskatoon won the first four WWCFL championships, helping to raise the profile of women’s tackle football.

The development of other women’s football leagues in town has also spurred the development of tackle football in Saskatoon. A couple years ago, Duchene, along with former Valkyrie Darla Lee-Walde were disappointed that although there were flag football leagues for girls before Grade 8, there weren’t for high school girls. With the cooperation of Saskatoon high schools, Saskatoon Minor Football and Football Saskatchewan, they formed the Rush Football League for girls.

They were hoping to field six teams in their inaugural 2014 season. Sixteen teams signed up. Last season, the league was up to 19 teams. This year, 29 teams are playing as the league kicked off its third season of play last week.

After learning a lot of basic football skills, many Rush League players have moved up to play for the Valkyries over the last couple years. Duchene estimates that about 24 current Valkyrie players, along with a number of their alumni, help out in coaching and facilitating the Rush Football League.

Saskatoon women’s tackle football may have started small just a half-dozen years ago, but it looks like there is no stopping it now.

OVERTIME: A couple of quick-learning new Valkyrie recruits in their exhibition game were Alex Eyolfson and Alyssa Wiebe. Eyolfson was 7 for 9 as quarterback for 111 yards with one TD pass. Wiebe hauled in five passes for 80 yards, including two TDs in her first time ever playing football of any kind after a lengthy hockey career.

drice@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dontheslicerice

Check out this photo gallery from our exhibition game against Edmonton.