Minor – Atlantic Football League is born in New Brunswick in 2009

09 Sep 2009

FREDERICTON (CUP) – Fall is in the air, and along with it comes a new league for football teams in Atlantic Canada.

The Atlantic Football League (AFL) is finally in action after four years of sorting out the fine details. There are three teams in the league thus far: the Moncton Raiders, the Saint John Seawolves and the Fredericton Red Bombers. The latter two teams will be affiliated with the University of New Brunswick campuses in their cities.
The AFL teams will not be playing at the varsity level, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t big plans in store for the league.

The idea for an Atlantic football league was formulated by Saint John’s Barry Ogden, who approached Fredericton’s Larry Wisniewski about it a year and a half ago.

Ogden is the General Manager for the Seawolves team, while Wisniewski performs that function for the Bombers. The Moncton team will be run by Dan Fougere.

Although the league has just begun, plans are already in store for major growth.

“We’re going to grow,” says Ogden. “The potential is huge . . . PEI wants in this year. We’re well on our way with the organization. We’ve even had some interest in Maine.

“Football is growing in age, it’s growing in gender and different people’s physical sizes.”

Ogden likes the fact that athletes of all different sizes and types of athleticism can play football and feel good about themselves.

Although the prospect of a league is not a new one, the idea only became viable in July and August, says Wisniewski.

“The word was out, but critical issues weren’t settled. Key pieces were players, coaching staff and finances, and we received substantial support in all of those areas.”

While they all belong to the same league, the teams will be set up differently in terms of membership.
The Raiders will be a community-based team. Fougere says the Moncton team wanted to stay away from universities.
“Universities have club teams, which means they have to take so many from the university itself. We’ll take students from [Crandall University] and the Université de Moncton, but we want the best product,” he explains.
The General Manager is concerned that if primarily university students are accepted, the team may not be able to draw in as much talent as possible.

“We want a competitive product on the field,” he says.

The teams out of the two UNB campuses – the Seawolves and Bombers – will draw mostly from university students to fill their rosters.

UNB Saint John’s team will be based on campus, but Wisniewski says the Seawolves will encourage players from New Brunswick Community College and the greater Saint John community to try out.

At UNB Fredericton, about 65 per cent of the team will be UNB students. The other 35 per cent of Bombers will be Saint Thomas University students and members of the Fredericton community.

“The team will have a strong UNB presence, but [there is] an open door to students from STU and the community who would want that link and affiliation,” says Wisniewski.

Tryouts for all three teams are in full swing, and students are getting anxious to get out on the field.
Third year UNB Fredericton law student Justin DeMerchant has taken a leadership role with the Bombers already. He spent much of his time this summer recruiting players and spreading the word through Facebook and the team’s new website.

DeMerchant has been a key part of the interim player executive and plans to play defence.
“It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to the season and I think everybody else is, too.”
“Just because it’s not part of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), doesn’t mean it can’t be of that caliber,” he says.

Third year UNB Fredericton business student Fraser Boldon shares DeMerchant’s sentiment. Boldon also worked to recruit players this summer. He played football for nine years prior to coming to UNB, and he can’t wait for the opportunity to get back at it.

“Its a great feeling. I’ve just been trying to stay in shape and biding my time, waiting for it to come. I’m glad to have got it together and be getting a team on the field.

“I’m really excited that football’s back at UNB and we’re dead serious about bringing out its full potential. We’d love to have as many fans and students and people in Fredericton come out and support us,” he says.
The first AFL game is scheduled to take place in Fredericton, where the Bombers, who went on a 29-year hiatus due to lack of funds in 1980, played their last game.

“I proposed to Fredericton that we have the first game there,” says Ogden. “In 1979 the Red Bombers played their last game, so why not commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of that?”

The league kicks off September 26.

Source: Sarah Ratchford, The Brunswickan

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

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