Cornwall – A dream has become a reality for Meagan Ferguson.
The 27-year-old Bunbury native and about 30 other Islanders, collectively known as the Island Demons, will take part in the Maritime Women’s Football League jamboree today in Lantz, N.S. They play their first game of the four-game regular season on May 4 and host their home-opener on May 18.
“This is something that I wanted since I was 12 years old – to see a women’s team on the Island,” Ferguson said.
She was a multi-sport athlete growing up, but it wasn’t until 2014, while attending UNB in Fredericton that she got on the football field. A hockey teammate suggested she try the sport by joining the Capital Area Lady Gladiators.
She became the team’s starting running back and a league all-star, playing in the circuit from 2014 to 2016.
Ferguson came back to the Island and ran into Richard Lush, a former classmate and football fanatic. They discussed the idea of a women’s tackle football team and put a game plan together to see if they could get it up and running.
They began spreading the word and booked some time for an indoor practice in December.
About 35 women, ranging in age from 18 to 30-plus, came to the first session.
Most of the athletes had never played the sport before, but Lush said the women were keen and eager to learn.
“Here we are, six or seven months later and we’re about to make history come Saturday. We’re really excited,” he said. “The best part about working with these women is they are sponges. They want to learn. They want to get better.”
Lacey (Lace Mary) Vos helped out with the Island Mariners men’s team last year as her husband-to-be Jarvis Simmonds played on the team.
When she was asked if she wanted to play on the women’s squad, she jumped on board.
“There was absolutely no hesitation,” said the right guard, who has also taken on the general manager’s responsibilities. “This is something P.E.I. was missing.”
The team members come from a variety of backgrounds.
“We have a lot of athletes that have played at the post-secondary level,” Ferguson said of varsity soccer, rugby and basketball players. “Although we have some girls that are new to football they’re very, very well educated as far as competitive (sports).”
Some of the women played softball, and others were powerlifters.
The team began practising indoors but has had a chance to get outside this week on the turf at the Terry Fox Sports Complex in Cornwall.
Despite the wet, cold weather, the smiles persisted.
“This is fun for us,” Vos said. “To be outside, we’re getting a real taste of what it’s going to be like.”
Lush said to see the women working their butts off in the freezing rain shows how committed they are to make the team a reality.
“These ladies are all in, they’re ready to go and I’m so proud of them,” he said.
The players have learned a lot in a short amount of time about the new sport.
“You wouldn't know that . . . 90 per cent of our girls (had) never played the sport,” Ferguson said. “You’d look at our team (now) and think we’ve been practising longer than a few months.”
“The girls are doing unreal,” Vos added. “I am super proud, and super privileged, to be part of this group.”
Need to know
A look at the Island Demons roster for the upcoming Maritime Women’s Football League:
Ferguson said: “It’s really rewarding to see this many girls interested and ready to go.”
Head coach Richard Lush.
Offensive co-ordinator Ryan Dempsey
Offensive assistant co-ordinator, receiver coach, special teams assistant co-ordinator Jarvis Simmonds
Defensive co-ordinator Paul Walsh
Defensive assistant co-ordinator Cory Annand
Defensive assistant co-ordinator Shayne Nelson
Special teams coach Josh Blakely
special teams assistant coach Greg Doucette
Trainer Derek Smith
Trainer Nicole Kenny
Trainer Jess Reynolds
• The Maritime Women’s Football League plays 11-aside games using the American rules like four downs as opposed to three used north of the border.
• The league, which began in 2004, says it is the first and oldest women’s tackle football league in Canada. The Island Demons join the Halifax Xplosion, Moncton Vipers, Capital Area Lady Gladiators from Fredericton, N.B., and the Saint John Storm to comprise the five-team circuit.
• The Demons will play their home games at the Terry Fox Sports Complex in Cornwall.
• Operating a football team doesn’t come cheap. Demon team officials estimate it can be about $10,000 a year. “These Demons are phenomenal in fundraising,” head coach Richard Lush said. “They just worked hard, fundraised and paid all the dues.” The team is open to sponsorships to help offset the cost and keep the team on good financial footing.
7 p.m. – Island Demons at Saint John Storm
1 p.m. – Capital Area Lady Gladiators at Island Demons
1 p.m. – Moncton Vipers at Island Demons
3:30 p.m. – Island Demons at Halifax Xplosion
June 8 – Playoffs
June 15 – Friendship bowl.
June 23 – Championship. 3 p.m. in Halifax.