As part of the celebrations for the 10th anniversary of the Maritime Women’s Football League, an All-Decade Team recognizing the best players from the first decade was named. Selected by the league, 35 players, along with 14 coaches and volunteers, were part of this historic squad.
The Capital Area Lady Gladiators led the way with 11 players, while the Saint John Storm were close behind with 10. Nine competitors from the Moncton Vipers earned nods, while the Halifax Xplosion had five players honored.
Of note, the league’s three most decorated players headlined the group of honored stars. Alex Black, starting quarterback for the Capital Area Lady Gladiators, began competing in the MWFL as a teenager. A seven-time MWFL All-Star, Black was the league’s Most Outstanding Player in 2008.
Another seven-time All-Star selection, Lisa Harlow of the Saint John Storm, holds the distinction of having played since the MWFL’s inaugural season.
The other member of this trio is Michelle Young-Mather. A teammate of Harlow’s on the Storm, she is a five-time All-Star who was honored as the Most Outstanding Player in 2007 and earned Most Outstanding Defensive Back nods in 2006 and 2008, respectively. In addition, her husband Jim Mather was selected as one of the coaches to the All-Decade Team.
Regarding the nine individuals from the MWFL—eight players and one coach—named to the 2013 Canadian National Team, eight also made it to the All-Decade Team.
Cheryl O’Leary was recognized for her work as a coach and volunteer with the MWFL. National team members such as the aforementioned Black, along with Robyn Neill and Kristen "Shot" Chatterton also played with O’Leary for the Lady Gladiators.
Lori Boyles, Marie-Noelle Beaulieu, Tara Keohan and Trina Graves were the other national team members who were chosen for the All-Decade Team. Emma Hicks, the only woman to compete in the MWFL and the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, was the lone MWFL national team representative not selected.
Having worked tirelessly in an executive capacity while playing with the Lady Gladiators, Hannah Hamilton was proud to be named to the All-Decade Team. An MWFL All-Star selection in 2010 for her efforts on defense, she approached the honor with happiness and humility.
“I sincerely appreciate the recognition I have received by the MWFL All-Decade Selection Committee," she said. "I have never been the star, but always a quiet leader.”
In a similar role to Hamilton, Natasha "Tasha" McMaster, a current player with the Halifax Xplosion, was recognized for her volunteer work with the franchise. She was joined by former player Heather Archibald (also recognized for volunteer work) and coach David Bostock. Pulling double duty in an administrative capacity with Halifax, the nod was a great point of pride for McMaster.
“I will start off by saying it was a huge surprise, completely unexpected and I am honored. I hope to remain a strong voice for the Xplosion and part of this amazing league for a long time to come!”
Seven players from the MWFL’s first-ever All-Star team (named in 2005) were part of the All-Decade Team. Leading the way was Mandy Hamilton-Mallais, formerly of the Moncton Vipers.
She was the first recipient of the Most Outstanding Player award and would follow it up with the Most Outstanding Running Back award in 2006. Quarterback Jenny Miller was the only other Moncton player from that first All-Star team to find her way onto the All-Decade Team. Her father, Gilles Lavoie was also named to the team as a coach.
“It is an honour to be named to the all decade team. It is gratifying to hit such a historic milestone for the Maritime Women's Football League. I am humbled to be named alongside the some of the leagues legends and visionaries. The MWFL exists due to the women who dare to show the world that we can play tackle football,” proclaimed Miller.
Courtney Hallett, the first recipient of the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award, was one of three Lady Gladiators from the first All-Star team named to the All-Decade Team. She was joined by Julia Coleman and Michelle Harrison.
Kara Fillmore and Lisa Harlow were the only Saint John Storm members to be both MWFL All-Stars in 2005 and All-Decade Team members.
Larry Harlow, the head coach of the Saint John Storm, was one of the coaches named to the team. With his daughter Lisa—who also serves as president of football New Brunswick—also a member, they are the second father-daughter combination on the All-Decade Team.
"To be sharing this with my dad is a special moment for our family. There has been many laughs and tears over the last decade, but we faced them together. He is more than my dad, he is my coach, mentor and friend. He is truly the heart and soul of women's football in the Maritimes," said Lisa.
Larry shared the following sentiments, “It is even more remarkable to have shared this journey with my daughter Lisa for 10 years. To see her not only grow as a player with the Saint John franchise, but to also take the lead role in the league development has made for some very proud moments.
We did not always agree on things and people used to chuckle as we would have some pretty involved conversations, but we always hoped it was for the best for all. Happy Anniversary MWFL, enjoy your accomplishments!”
All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise indicated.