Ten years of explosive action for MWFL football in Halifax

As the 2016 edition of gridiron action in the Maritime Women’s Football League (MWFL) brought with it the opportunity to continue making history and building on a strong gridiron legacy, there was also a significant milestone. Also representing a key season highlight was the fact that the only women’s tackle football team based in Nova Scotia, the Halifax Xplosion, celebrated ten remarkable years.

With the Xplosion having experienced a significant turnaround in 2015, with a .500 winning percentage, there was an exceptional feeling of optimism and momentum for the club. Helping to lead the way was Natasha McMaster. In addition to being part of the team’s roster, she has also taken on a managerial capacity with the club. Working tirelessly off the field, her efforts have proven to be a key factor in reaching the cherished anniversary.

“Marking 10 years of women’s tackle football here in Nova Scotia is big thing and when I stop to think about it I am amazed. I don’t think people realize the all that the team has overcome, all the work that goes into sustaining the team, and how hard our players work on and off the field to keep us going.

So to be a part of all this is, for me, is more than I can explain. We are a family as well as a team and in no other way would I have met the people I have or had the experinces I have had if it were not for our team. I guess the take away is that I am thankful and proud to be a part of our 10th Anniversary Season.”

Balancing both the gridiron and the hockey rink, where she also serves as a referee, Dianne Ikeda truly represents the empowering and exciting spirit of women’s sports in Nova Scotia. One of the team’s veteran players, her solid leadership brings a presence of consistency to a club that has worked tirelessly to remain relevant,

“Knowing the Xplosion have been around for 10 years is a big accomplishment. We struggle every year to get enough players, so it’s amazing that we have made it for 10 years. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 bring.”

Also one of the team’s veterans, the tenth anniversary is one that represents both redemption and jubilation for Terri Smith-Fraser. Being part of such a landmark season is one that is complemented by the fact that she is celebrating her fabulous fiftieth birthday as well. After ending her 2015 season with a fractured wrist, the road back was one filled with speculation about the future of her gridiron career. Gracing the gridiron in 2016 is testament to Smith-Fraser’s resiliency.

“I was not sure if I would be playing this season after fracturing my wrist in our final game last season. So I am very happy to be able to play with my team this year, especially during the Halifax Xplosions 10th Anniversary and to celebrate my 50th Birthday on the field as well (laughs).

I have really felt a passion for this sport since I discovered it, and have really tried to help recruit players and coaches by promoting our team, and women’s football. Natasha has worked super hard for this team and league, and I have been but one of her many helpers.
Women’s Football is a sport for all women! No one is too big or too small. As my teammate Rhea and I, (the “older” players) can attest after many seasons, no one is too old either (laughs).”

Despite her aforementioned status as one of the older players, Rhea Munro and Smith-Fraser are equally young at heart, finding a spiritual rejuvenation on the gridiron. While her reflections on the Xplosion’s history also involves the struggles that are somewhat obligatory in these developing years of female football, the core shows an unbridled love of the game, revealing an unbreakable spirit that has made the game such a joy,

“The simple fact that the Xplosion has made it to 10 years feels like a victory in itself. We have struggled with coaching, getting field time, fundraising/sponsorship, player turnover. Through it all has been a core group of veterans that keep grinding away and working hard to keep the team alive. We are lucky to get rookies every year that are eager to learn and work hard and contribute however they can. We are currently blessed with a coaching staff that is patient, knowledgable, committed, passionate. I could not be more proud to be part of this group.”

That sense of pride is reciprocated by Sarah Ingraham, another charter member of the Xplosion. While she was understandably inactive this season, giving birth to her first child, there was a serendipitous outcome. Having donned the trademark orange and navy blue colors of the Xplosion since its opening kickoff, the love of the gridiron is a significant aspect of Ingraham’s identity. The chance to remain part of the anniversary season in a coaching role is one that provided enormous fulfillment for Ingraham, while allowing her to proudly experience two new empowering milestones; mom and coach.

“This team has been through it all. I love the group of girls on this team. We have always had an amazing group of girls. There are few of us that have stuck together and pulled this team through it all. At the end of the day, I come back every year because I love this sport.

I have always had time for a player with a question or needed a little extra support. I guess that is why I love coaching too; it is to see the players grow. I always wanted this team to succeed and am proud to be a part of this team, even if it has to be on the sidelines coaching!”

Undoubtedly, the Xplosion holds a special place in the hearts of many who donned its jersey. Among them is Holly Arthur, who extended her gridiron legacy by also suiting up for the Calgary Rage in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League. As a side note, former Xplosion member Ferne Lavers is also a competitor with the Rage, testament to its growing legacy.

Despite her dedication to the gridiron in Prairie Canada, part of her football soul remains firmly entrenched in Halifax, the place of her sporting roots. Eternally proud of her teammates and the impact that they Xplosion have made for women’s sports in Nova Scotia, her feelings of jubilation are only matched by the sense of achievement that comes with reaching the magical milestone of ten seasons,

“As not only a former player but also someone who helped to manage the Halifax Xplosion it means so much to me that this year they celebrate their 10th season. As a born and raised Haligoian, I am proud to say Halifax could hold on even though some seasons were not always easy.

On the other hand, as the only Nova Scotian team in the league, I would love to see some growth in the province to give those New Brunswick girls a run for their money (laughs). Women’s football has grown so much even since I got my feet wet in it 5 years ago, yet, I know everyone involved is still working very hard to push it that much further.

Coming from the East coast to the West coast, to me it seems like most women’s tackle football teams have the same struggles of promotion, numbers, coaches, funding, along with many other categories. With that sad, from the East to the West every female tackle football player I’ve met has the heart and drive to tackle through those challenges and always find ways to push forward to keep these teams and leagues alive.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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