In a dual role as both player and general manager, Roberta Gordica came out of retirement and helped get the expansion Okotoks Lady Outlawz off the ground. A former competitor with the Calgary Rockies (the predecessor to the current Calgary Rage), Gordica’s maturity and leadership was crucial in getting the Alberta-based expansion team launched.
While the Lady Outlawz inaugural season in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League left them without a victory, Gordica was still proud of the effort shown by her teammates.
“Regarding my impressions of our first season, I do not think you could find a group of ladies with more heart than this group. The season was difficult with learning the sport and brand new ladies, along with learning what was required from the WWCFL, injuries to the players, coaches having to make different decisions from football in their life and moving on," she said.
"On the other hand, there is not a better group of ladies who go out and put their bodies out there for football. The team was eager to learn, they wanted to play and they wanted to hear the crunch of the other lady hitting their pads. Overall it was a great season, with some minor hiccups.”
Her tireless work as general manager encompassed many duties. As the WWCFL still works to establish itself as a brand, while increasing public awareness, there are bigger challenges for an expansion team. Aside from the usual financial challenges in any sport, Gordica was responsible for assembling the team, hiring the coaching staff and finding a stadium.
“My duties as GM are everything from getting coaches, players, equipment, fields, refs, to fundraising and paying the bills," Gordica said.
"Keeping the lines of communication open between the coaches, support staff and the players was the hardest challenge. As a new team, there were challenges, such as support from the community, getting coaches, support staff and players. It took roughly a year and a half to get the team up and running. Raising money for the team was another challenge and still is.”
Earlier in the season, the club forfeited a game against the Calgary Rage. As difficult a decision as it was, Gordica involved the entire team in the decision-making process. After suffering an opening day loss to the Lethbridge Steel (who would finish their season undefeated), many players were not healthy enough to compete. With a roster that featured many athletic women competing in football for the first time, the injury factor was one that resulted in the painful decision.
“Forfeiting the game was the hardest decision to make, though it was made as a team decision. We needed to heal from our injuries as everyone had to go to work on Monday. Due to the injuries, we could not get enough active players for the roster that was required by the WWCFL. It felt like failure.”
While coming out of retirement and competing again brought with it great joy for Gordica, she reflects on the season with great maturity. Although she may be her biggest critic, her playing experience was a valuable resource for many of the rookies on the Lady Outlawz roster.
“The experience of playing was great. To be back on the field (was fun), but realistically, I should have never come out of retirement. My age started to hold me up; I was too slow getting off the line and I could not bounce up off the ground like I used to,” Gordica said.
Having been athletic her entire life, Gordica has a lifelong love of football. A way of life for many residents in Alberta in summer, the opportunity for women to compete on the gridiron has only enriched the love of the game. Gordica’s rookie season would come in 2005 as she competed for the Calgary Rockies (at the time, one of only two women’s football teams in Alberta).
“The interest of football has always been there, I have always been active and I was involved in track and field during junior and high school. I made the Red Deer College cross country team in grade nine, and I played badminton and volleyball competitively."
Football eventually took center stage for Gordica. "I played football with the boys in school during gym class. My favorite play has always been the statue of liberty. Eight years ago, I was watching a Stampeders game and saw a poster for Calgary Rockies Women's Football and from there it is history.”
Despite the winless season, the Lady Outlawz have some building blocks that should provide for a solid future. Gordica reflects on the remarkable women that shared her vision for female football with pride. With the inaugural season now history, the franchise can focus on the future.
“Potential stars, well that would be Tegan Donnelly ("The Real Deal"), Georgia Moore ("The Aussie Clipper"), Christine Szostak ("Crazy Eyes"), and Jodie Ward ("Queenie"). All the players though put their heart and soul into the team," Gordica said.
"Now that they have this year under their belt, next year they will be the stars. Some of the players were only able to get one game in due to injuries. I really hope that next year they will be healthy and shining in the spotlight.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”