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‘Girl’s football is growing’: Central Alberta Fire ready to begin new season

Football is back
The Central Alberta Fire played in a few games during their annual football jamboree on Saturday at The Done in Red Deer. The all-female football team begins their season next weekend. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

The Central Alberta Fire U16 and U19 female football teams have returned to the gridiron.

On Saturday the Fire hosted their second annual football jamboree at The Dome in Red Deer.

During the event, all 13 teams in the Female Football League played a series of fun exhibition games before the season opener next weekend.

Head coach of the U19 Central Alberta Fire Martin Rheaume said he feels confident in his team’s abilities and is excited to get it all started.

“With the jamboree, it’s really more about seeing how the plays work and how the girls are handling their assignments,” he said.

“The U16 team is blowing all of our expectations out of the water, which is fantastic. The U19 is pretty much carrying on from last year so they have a good sense of what the plays are like.”

He explained it’s also nice to see what the rest of the league will look like heading into the season both offensively and defensively.

“Overall, I’m very excited about this season and we’re looking forward to being able to carry on the success from last year. With provincials happening for the first time this year, that’s our goal.”

This season they’ll play their regular season games against teams in the southern division and then for the first time, there will be a provincial final where the south will take on the north teams in mid-June.

The Foothills Eagles, Calgary Wildcats, SAMFA Valkyries (St. Albert), Wetaskiwin, and Leduc are all U16 teams. The U19 teams that are set to play include the Foothills, Calgary, St. Albert, Wetaskiwin, Lethbridge, Airdrie, Stony Plain, and West Edmonton.

They will host their first league game in Lacombe on Saturday, April 13 vs. Airdrie at 5 p.m.

Rheaume explained he’s already seeing growth and improvement from his returning players.

“The confidence that the girls get to build and then you see them play, it’s exciting. It’s fantastic and the game is transformative,” he said.

“There were some players last year who were a little bit more shy and this year you can see their confidence. These girls are just happy to play along with their friends and teammates,” Rheaume said.

“They love the sport of football and for us coaches, there’s nothing better than having a team that just loves the sport.”

In 2023, they had 15 athletes playing for them, which has grown to 33 heading into the 2024 Female Football League campaign. They now have enough players to host a U16 and a U19 team.

“I’m so proud to be a part of the Fire and to be part of the Southern Alberta women’s football league. Football really is not made for one gender. For the girls to not only be playing the sport but playing with other girls they just develop more,” he said.

“In our league, we’ve expanded by two teams as well, so girl’s football is growing and expanding.”

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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