As the Western Women’s Canadian Football League continues to grow, players like Shelby Moran will serve as the foundation for the next generation of stars. Competing with the Regina Riot, Moran is working tirelessly to help the franchise attain its first championship.
While the WWCFL is shattering barriers and expectations as to the role of women in football, Moran was accomplishing a reputation as a great competitor in high school. Like fellow peer Alexa Matwyczuk, Moran played high school boys football.
“Playing football in high school was an amazing experience. I first played for my high school during the ninth grade in Dryden, Ontario. I had so much fun and got along so great with the guys, that when I moved here [in Regina] I had to play. Then I played a year at another school because I had a friend that really wanted to play and she wanted me to join her.”
As the remainder of her high school playing career was in football-mad Regina, Saskatchewan, Moran continued competing against the boys. Competing on the Winston Knoll Wolverines varsity football team in high school, she was a defensive back. Standing only at 5’2”, Moran was a spitfire of remarkable energy and strength who not only earned the respect of her coaches, but held up her own against the boys.
“After that, my coach at the high school asked if I was going to play for them. Then next year came, and of course I was going to play, no questions asked. I had amazing coaches here and a great head coach [Kelly Adams] which really made playing more enjoyable. When I was on the field there was not any difference between me and the guys; I was just a player.
That was the best part, being treated 100 percent equal when I was playing. The guys were of course hesitant at first to hit me, but once you hit back...they soon forget and hit me just the same as any other player. Overall playing in high school was great, and I learned so much from playing which has really helped me now. It has also made me more confident in my tackling now because before I was able to take down big high school guys.”
Like many women competing in the WWCFL, Shelby Moran is also a two-sport star. While at Winston Knoll Collegiate, she won the 2008 provincial wrestling championship in the 65-kilogram weight class. She would also represent Saskatchewan in wrestling at the 2009 Canada Summer Games, finishing in sixth place.
In university, Moran continued to compete in wrestling. With the University of Regina Cougars wrestling team, Moran ranked in fifth place in the 82-kilogram class at the 2010 Canada West Championships. While football was her first love, Moran found similarities between the two sports. The toughness and skills acquired on the gridiron transferred well to her wrestling endeavors.
“Wrestling has definitely helped in some areas for sure. The main part it has helped is with tackling. Really, it is all the same concepts as a running double leg takedown. The intense training has helped with fitness. In wrestling, you have to recover fast and catch your breath quick between periods so that also has helped me be able to recover really fast between plays.
I originally played football before I ever wrestled, so football also helped me wrestle as well, especially with takedowns. Wrestlers make great football players, and I would love to see more wrestlers playing football because they are usually the better tacklers.”
The defining moment in her young career came in a historic moment in WWCFL lore. Heading into the 2013 WWCFL campaign, the Regina Rage had an ambitious goal of usurping the Saskatoon Valkyries as the finest team in the league. With the Valkyries having never lost a game in league history, Regina handed them their first loss on May 12, 2013.
As the hard-earned victory came on Moran’s 22nd birthday, it would provide with a series of treasured moments that would last a lifetime. In the 15-7 final, which was a defensive showcase throughout, Moran registered four tackles.
“The win against Saskatoon was amazing! I could not ask for a better birthday present that is for sure. It was so intense and our defense just came together as one it was awesome!
That win really helped our team’s confidence. We always knew we could beat them. It was just a matter of coming together as a team to do it. This year we had the right coaches and it just seemed to work out. I think beating them also broke that mental block that our team seemed to have whenever we face them.”
Another milestone for Moran and her teammates on Regina was the opportunity to host the Prairie Conference championship game in 2013. Having claimed the regular-season title for the first time in franchise history, the opportunity at the elusive WWCFL championship seemed all too real.
Despite the fact that the Valkyries managed to defeat the Riot in the Prairie Conference final and advance to their third consecutive WWCFL title game, Moran and her teammates made significant progress in 2013. While the offseason will certainly provide Moran with motivation, she is confident that the future will provide the much desired championship result. In discussing what it will take to win the coveted championship, Moran declared,
“To win the championship, our team all has to come together and play together. Football is the ultimate team sport. You have to completely trust that everyone on your team on that field will do their job. If you have full confidence that the person next to you is doing their job, then you can do yours. That is the key, to trust the person beside you. Everyone just has to play hard, make their tackles and blocks and then we will be successful.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”