Tenth season competing in MWFL part of tremendous legacy for Tori Jewett

With the growing lore of female football, it brings with it an accompanied increase in opportunities to reach new milestones. A long-time competitor with the Capital Area (Fredericton) Lady Gladiators, Tori Jewett gained an exceptional landmark in 2017, gracing the gridiron for her tenth season.

As the first female to play football in New Brunswick at the junior high school level, the courage to break the gender barrier while challenging conventional thinking represent some of the great hallmarks in Jewett’s career, establishing her as an icon in Atlantic Canadian sport. While Jewett is proud to be part of the Maritime Women’s Football League (MWFL), she reflects on the tenth anniversary self-effacingly, looking at the enjoyment that the game provides with a more profound meaning.

In action with the Lady Gladiators (Obtained from Facebook – Credit: Ann Eagles)

“One year or 10 years, football is football and it is what I love. Plenty of things have changed, but football is and always will be just football. A solid in my life that allows me to hit people for fun.”

While Jewett’s career has run parallel to the growth of the female game from coast to coast, it has also provided the opportunity to represent her home province. Donning the iconic sporting yellow jerseys with teal blue numbering as a member of Team Atlantic’s roster in 2012, it represented a breakthrough for the region, testament to the game’s evolution there.

Competing in the Canadian women’s national football championships in 2016, signifying her second appearance, it represented a strong feeling of achievement for Jewett. Part of Team New Brunswick’s roster, it was an opportunity to appreciate Jewett’s enduring presence in Atlantic football, symbolizing durability and consistency.

Although the gathering of talent on Team NB involved rivals from all four of the MWFL clubs, collaborating as teammates with the mutual goal of a podium finish, it was part of a much richer narrative that involved a significant veteran presence. For the “rookie” competitors donning the burgundy-colored New Brunswick jersey, there is no question that Jewett was definitely one of the key veterans that they looked up to for inspiration. Considering that the chance to compete at the provincial level took place for Jewett long before she graced the female gridiron, her career was built on a courageous empowerment.

“This is not the first or second time I have had the chance to play for my province. I have played with U16 Boys when I was in high school. I went to nationals in Quebec in 2012, and Regina in 2016 with the ladies in the MWFL.

To bring together four teams of people who are used to playing against each other, it is always a unique opportunity. You get to know them on a totally different level, I would not change that for anything.

I have made some long-lasting friendships. Nationals is a whole other ball game, it is a whole different caliber of athletes. To be able to play with them and on that level, is intense and amazing, they hit harder, run faster and play smarter. I love to push myself and Nationals is exactly the place to be able to do so.”

Amassing a remarkable body of work, there is also an accumulation of memorable moments. While Jewett can boast numerous Judy Upward Trophy victories in the MWFL, her initial sojourn in the game provides for her fondest reminiscence, a cherished nostalgia that foreshadowed the shattering of the glass ceiling, as the role of women in football only continued to bloom.

Serving as the springboard for all the other glories to follow, Jewett recounts how the experience of playing boys football at middle school was an amalgamation of nervous energy and a desire to succeed. The groundbreaking debut not only resulted in an obligatory adrenaline rush, it was a display of remarkable self-assurance, dauntlessly taking a hit, while employing remarkable bravura opposing competitors twice her size, dauntlessly dealing game-changing tackles.

“This is probably the hardest question, there have been quite a few over the years. I have been playing since I was in the eighth grade, (as) I was the first female on the first Devon Middle School team. The first time I ever got hit brings back good memories, I will never forget.

I was so nervous, but I am always up for a challenge so my friend Jordan Gahan who easily had 80 pounds on me. He was up, he was also nervous but after he hit me I must have flown like 5 yards. I’ll never forget how I bounced up and wanted nothing more than to do it again.

(Yet), I think my favorite moment was one of my first games, (it was) how I knew I would become addicted to football. I was playing safety, the last line of defense. This huge guy got through all our line and linebackers, heading straight for me.

He dwarfed me by a lot. Everyone including him thought that he had an easy touchdown. Little did he know, I was hungry for that hit. With our combined momentum, I lifted him and slammed him hard. The thing I will never forget most of all were the fans, the crowd went nuts! Of course, as per usual, I danced away.”

Adding to her legacy every time that she graces the gridiron, an enthusiastic Jewett shows no signs of slowing down. Subsequently, the game provides a continued diversion, regardless of which team’s jersey is worn. From friendships developed, leadership enhanced, skills gained and the gratification of a successful hit, Jewett continues to absorb football’s influence, treasuring it in all its distinct facets.

Discussing the factors that make Jewett come back year after year, the element of camaraderie emerges as its most redeeming, one that is approached with great sincerity. Finding solace among these encouraging competitors, the feeling of friendship and belonging that exists within the team culture is also contributing towards the formation of a lineage. Unquestionably, Jewett is part of this development, poised to bridge generations with every successive season, concurrently adding substance to the realization that women have a significant role to play in the game’s future.

“The fact that it is a fun, easy way to get some aggression off and the adrenaline is addictive. It is a great way to get some exercise, and you always have room to learn and grow. I have seen many people come and go, but I have met some of the best women and some of my best friends playing football. The Lady Gladiators are much more than just a team, they are a family. (Plus), it always feels just so good to tackle someone real hard.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Acknowledgements: Stephanie Bosse

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

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