Sense of family takes on sensational meaning for Samantha Matheson in Vancouver

Part of a new generation of exceptional talent suiting up for Canada’s contingent at the 2017 IFAF Women’s World Football Championships, Samantha Matheson proudly represented the golden hopes and dreams of an entire nation. With the cosmopolitan city of Vancouver, British Columbia, serving as host for this exciting event, it added to an amazing sense of achievement for Matheson.

Taking into account that over 30 members of Canada’s roster were making their debut, it was testament to the quality of talent developed since the inaugural Women’s Worlds were held in 2010. With Matheson among those new faces for Canada, reaching such a summit represented an achievement that complemented past milestones such as a WWCFL championship and a 2016 national championship with Team Saskatchewan, where she was also named to the Tournament All-Star Team.

With the revelation of Canada’s roster, it was a tremendous source of elation, signifying Matheson’s arrival as one of the game’s elites, “Prior to the release of the final roster I was very nervous so once I found out I was very relieved and excited.”

Calling the dynastic Saskatoon Valkyries her club team, Matheson is also one of numerous two-sport stars that have donned the team colors, having also starred with the University of Saskatchewan’s varsity soccer team. The prestige of playing for the Valkyries was destined to define her experience in Vancouver.

From the outset, Matheson held the rare distinction of calling both her mother Kris, and sister Kendal, teammates with the club, winning a championship in 2016. This unique brush with history signifies a treasured place in WWCFL lore. As a side note, younger sister Makenna was part of the Valkyries injured reserve roster for 2017.

(L-R) Samantha, Kris and Kendal Matheson during the 2016 Saskatoon Valkyries (Image from the Kendal Matheson Collection)

That sense of teamwork between mother and daughters was definitely evident in Vancouver. Although NAMES could not be in attendance for all of Canada’s games at the IFAF Worlds, their attendance for the gold medal game against the United States represented one of the most heartwarming elements of the tournament, displaying a loving encouragement.

“Having my family there was probably the best part of the tournament to see them show up to support me and the team. Yes, my mother came for the last game.

My sister’s graduation was actually the day before the final (game) and as soon as it was over, they all hopped on a plane at 5am to come see our final. So, I was very touched that they made it a priority.”

Prior to the gold medal game, Matheson had certainly made an impression with Canada’s team. Making her debut against Australia, the opening game of the event for both nations, there was a tremendous sense of history.

Not only did said game signify Canada’s first game on home soil, it was the debut of Australia in the IFAF Worlds. In addition, it was also the head coaching debut of Dr. Jen Welter, becoming the first former player to serve in such a capacity at the Worlds.

To step onto the field in her Team Canada jersey, adorned by the number 22, it represented the culmination of a longtime goal for Matheson. Competing on Special Teams, Matheson accepted the role with relish.

Matheson (centre wearing her trademark number 22) consulting with members of Canada’s special teams unit at the 2017 IFAF Women’s Worlds (Credit: Diz Ruptive Photography)

In spite of the position of punt returner not a typical one for Matheson, as she is a key part of the Valkyries running game as one of its feature backs, the ability to abandon her comfort zone and grow as a player signified a great maturity and a strong team-first philosophy. Returning a punt against Australia for a game-high 42 yards, it was testament to her titanic talents, displaying exceptional gridiron versatility,

“It was definitely a realization of a dream to be able to step out onto to the field in my Team Canada uniform. I am very happy with that punt return.

I do not usually get to return punts with the Valks, so I was very nervous to be the lone returner on the field. Yet, I was so exhilarated after that return. I only wish I did not dislocate my knee so I could have gotten a few more of those runs.”

Akin to her fellow Valkyries in uniform for Canada, the emotion of gracing the gridiron on home soil was complemented by a profound sense of duty to honor a significant contributor to Valkyries history. Having served as the team’s head coach for its first six seasons of existence, Jeff Yausie’s denouement involved roaming the sidelines for Canada.

With the gold medal game representing the final chapter, Yausie, whose fatherly presence was essential in helping to positively shape the team’s culture, it was truly one of those moments that brought the legacy of the Valkyries full circle. With an emphasis on the feeling of family, the epitome of what a team should be, Matheson was among those accomplished Valkyries in Canada’s colors, proud to play one final time for Yausie, a significant milestone in Canadian female football history,

“There is no one I would have rather had as head coach than Jeff. I have known him since the start of my Valkyries career and I am so, so glad that I was able to experience being a part of his final debut as head coach for the women’s national team.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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