Katie Hungle ready to contribute towards confident year for Canadian female football

With an ever-expanding list of accolades and achievements, Katie Hungle represents the potential of women to make significant inroads in the gridiron game, emerging as more than just sporting icons, but role models. Among the leaders on the Regina Riot’s defensive line, Hungle looks towards 2017 with an exciting optimism. In a year that sees Canada celebrating its sesquicentennial, it may also emerge as a watershed year for the female game, as Vancouver plays host to the IFAF Women’s World Championships, potentially propelling the game towards mainstream attention.

There is a strong sense of transition for Saskatchewan football in 2017. With Olivier Eddie taking on the mantle of head coach for the Riot, while Jeff Yausie is no longer in his familiar place on the Saskatoon Valkyries sideline, it is part of a tone that sees new leadership propelling female football into the next generation.

As a side note, there is also a sense that there is a passing of the torch from a coaching perspective at the 2017 Worlds. While Yausie serves as Canada’s head coach, his swan song for the female game, Eddie returns as the special teams coach, while former player Saadia Ashraf becomes the first female member of the coaching staff.

That sense has also translated into a group of players looking to take on bigger leadership roles in the 2017 season, including Hungle. As one of 32 players making her debut for Canada at the 2017 IFAF Women’s World Football Championships, she is working tirelessly towards the goal of a second Western Women’s Canadian Football League (WWCFL) championship, aiming to emerge as one of the Riot’s most important contributors towards attaining such a peak.

Of note, the 2016 Canadian women’s national football championships represented a key step towards Hungle experiencing the thrill of joining the sorority of elite talent that have represented Canada on a global stage. Undoubtedly, Nationals brought with it a new level of big game experience, possibly foreshadowing glorious opportunities at the 2017 Women’s Worlds.

As the dominant Team Québec looked to repeat as national champions, having won at the inaugural nationals in 2012, their return to the gold medal game in 2016 provided ample motivation for an ambitious Saskatchewan squad was eager to stake their claim.

Part of a Team Saskatchewan roster that was an amalgam of the elite from both the Riot and the archrival Saskatoon Valkyries, the intensity of the biggest rivalry in the WWCFL dissolved very quickly. Animosity was replaced by admiration, with a collaborative sense of teamwork propelling the province towards its first-ever national championship.

Considering that Hungle was part of the Riot’s first-ever WWCFL championship team in 2015, the opportunity to don the Team Saskatchewan jersey and emerge with a second major championship in two years represented a career hallmark. In reflecting on the milestone, the opportunity to contribute to experience a brush with history, part of significant and glorious firsts for the Riot and Team Saskatchewan exemplified growth as a competitor and as a champion,

“Having won the WWCFL title in 2015 was an amazing experience not only for myself but it was a huge step in the right direction for the Regina Riot as an organization. Winning a National Championship was a bit of a different feeling because we were able to take two of the (arguably) best teams in the WWCFL and bring together a force unlike any other. It was an honor being a part of Team Saskatchewan and being able to win the National Championship on our home turf.”

Nine Regina Riot members will be playing for team Canada at the 2017 IFAF Women’s World Championship this summer. Players from right to left: Alex Kowalski, Artemis Kouropoulou, Adrienne Zuck, Ashley Viklund, Aimee Kowalski, Katie Hungle and head coach Olivier Eddie. Missing: Carmen Agar, Claire Dore and Emilie Belanger. Photo by Rebbeca Marroquin.

As significant as the national championship was, elevating the football mad province to an even more prominent state, Hungle also experienced the thrill of being recognized among her peers as the best of the best. With the honor of being named to the Women’s National Championship All-Star Team, it elevated a humble yet honored Hungle into a prime time player, while allowing her the opportunity to attend the next set of tryouts for the Canadian women’s national team.

“Being named to the Women’s National All-Stars was a great surprise. It motivates me to continue to strive to be a better athlete on and off of the field for my teammates. I am very excited for what the future holds.”

Playing alongside such exceptional talent at Nationals, the inspiring result can be defined by more than just a championship. While said championship saw Saskatchewan emerge as the definitive hub for elite women’s football in the country, it was also an exceptional example of the power of teamwork.

Such rivalries between these two clubs could have easily allowed Team Saskatchewan to collapse. Instead, a display of maturity and respect allowed for the unprecedented glory of a national championship. In the process, it allowed this collection of Riot and Valkyries players an opportunity to experience the sensation of leadership, adding an importance upon the return to their club teams for the 2017 WWCFL season.

Such a facet of leadership is one that Hungle acknowledges as part of the Team Saskatchewan experience. With great maturity, it is the type of quality that will allow her to become closer to the pinnacle of world class competitor.

“I believe that Team Saskatchewan as a whole was made up of leaders, everyone has something to bring to make one another better.”

That sense of one’s presence being able to elevate the quality of another’s game shall take on substance in the next stage of Hungle’s career. One of three members from the Riot’s defensive unit, including Artemis Kouropoulou and Adrienne Zuck, that shall don the Team Canada jersey for the 2017 Women’s Worlds, it represents a proud moment for both player and the Riot organization alike.

Joined by five of the Riot’s most proficient players from offense, Hungle shall share in the experience of being a Team Canada “rookie” with other teammates. Among this group includes celebrated running back Carmen Agar, Kouroupolou, star wide receiver Alex Kowalski and offensive line member Ashley Viklund. In addition, four members of the Valkyries shall also gain the prestige of making their debut for Team Canada in 2017. If this collection of new faces can duplicate the kind of exceptional on-field chemistry that made Team Saskatchewan so effective, it is the kind of foundation that may pave the way for bigger things, as Canada looks to emerge triumphant against the world’s finest.

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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