Signal caller Aria McGowan stars with Team Alberta at Nationals

In a career that continues to be an unfolding narrative filled with many exciting milestones and feats, Aria McGowan has established herself as one of the finest quarterbacks in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League (WWCFL). Testament to her talent was the chance to star on Canada’s biggest stage with Team Alberta for the chance to be called a national champion.

Having also played for Team Alberta at the inaugural Canadian national women’s championships in 2012, McGowan was among a rare group of charter members back to represent the province. With such experience, McGowan not only emerged as a key leader for the team, she brought an extra sense of motivation. With great effort, McGowan was looking to help establish Alberta as a powerhouse for Canadian women’s football, aiming to redeem the team from its last place showing four years ago.

Serving as Team Alberta’s field general, McGowan led a contingent that consisted of a myriad of elite talent, primarily consisting from the WWCFL’s Western Conference. Beginning with several players from her club team, the Edmonton Storm, McGowan was also joined by conference rivals from the Calgary Rage and the Lethbridge Steel, along with the up and coming Grande Prairie Northern Anarchy. In a true display of teamwork, her guidance in the offensive game was only matched by her maturity and the mutual respect that she felt for some of the other talents among traditional Western Conference rivals that were now donning Team Alberta colors,

“I had the opportunity to play for Team Alberta in 2012 but this time, (it) was so much more special as I had the opportunity to be the starting QB (and be named MVP) for both of the games we played. I also got to play alongside some players I’ve only gone up against.

Alex Babiarz-Graveline (from the Lethbridge Steel) is an amazing offensive and defense player, and good friend. Erin Walton (of the Calgary Rage), is another player who I have looked forward to playing alongside for many years. Words cannot describe the kind of player she is. So much love and passion for the game. She has taught me so much on and off the field and I hope to get the chance to play along side with her again.”

Taking into account the sense of urgency in assembling a team together, McGowan provided a calming presence, allowing for a sense of confidence among her Alberta teammates. Whether their club team was the Storm, Rage or Steel, McGowan’s strong quarterbacking skills helped to instill a sense of unity on a team filled with many players looking to prove their mettle among Canada’s elite female footballers.

Although the next WWCFL season shall see rivalries renewed, there is no question that the approach to the game shall be much different. While tensions will exist to capture the conference crown and play for the league championship, there will be a much stronger sense of respect among all players, knowing that their collective efforts on this empowering journey at the 2016 nationals brought them together in ways that can never be defined.

“I cannot forget our coaches. They came together from the Storm, Rage and Steel. With only phone calls until our two days of practice, they put together an amazing team of girls and believed in us all the way. I cannot thank them enough for all they did for us and the free time they gave to us, we love you all.”

Although the distinguished competitors from Team Alberta were adorned in their respective club team’s helmets, the one unifying feature that defined their collaborative efforts was the fact that they were all donned in white and blue jerseys. Proud to be part of Team Alberta, McGowan helped propel the team’s offense towards a series of solid performances, culminating with a podium finish that saw Alberta hold off an ambitious Team New Brunswick in the bronze medal match

“To be able to win bronze in this tournament meant a lot to me, the girls and the province. We came in last in the 2012 tournament, and this year, we had a lot to prove. Alberta does have some amazingly talented athletes and what we accomplished this year with only two days of total practice, and maybe 12 hours before we played our first game is unbelievable. The girls came together so well, it was like we had been playing together for a couple of years. I am proud of everyone one of them and would not change this experience for anything.”

McGowan’s talents in the Western Conference are beyond compare. Having led the Storm to a pair of back-to-back conference titles, her poise behind centre have proven to be a contributing factor towards an empowering and accomplished era for the club. Recognized as the Storm’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2015, such an honour complemented one of her proudest successes, gaining WWCFL MVP honors in the same year.

Among a remarkable assortment of achievements, the proudest of McGowan’s career so far may be the chance to call several accomplished women from the Storm teammates once again with Team Alberta. Such sensational women included Breanna Bouchard, one of McGowan’s favorite targets on offense, and defensive stalwart Tanya Henderson, whose efforts culminated with a nod on the Tournament All-Star Team.

Undoubtedly, the women who represented the Storm with Team Alberta helped enhance a special hallmark in McGowan’s career, a collection of remarkable and inspiring gridiron personalities that have so much to be proud of.

“Playing alongside some of the girls from the Storm was amazing and so much fun. We ended our WWCFL season with a heartbreaking loss in the championship game this year. Yet, to have the opportunity to play more football, and (especially) for our province was special.

To win bronze and end our football season on a winning note was amazing and to have my best friend Breanna Bouchard there was amazing. We have been through so much together, the late night and early morning extra practices we put in together. A girl could not be happier to have such an amazing person in my life. With all the Storm girls, football is not just a game; it is also a family as well. Love you all.”

Through it all, the most consistent element of McGowan’s gridiron journey may be her love of the game. Contributing towards one of the feel-good moments of the nationals, bringing Alberta out of the basement that defined a sullen outcome at the 2012 edition, to an encouraging podium finish, it is testament to McGowan’s status as one of Canada’s finest at her position.

As Edmonton is known as the “City of Champions”, McGowan has earned a special place in the hearts and minds of its female football fans, as her efforts represent the vast potential for the growth to come while gaining the respect well deserving of a champion, filled with character and dedication. Such qualities have also seen McGowan rewarded with a well-deserved invitation to the next stage of Team Canada tryouts in December 2017, bringing her one step closer to the dream of competing at the global stage in the Canada colors, which would only endear her to a wider scope of Canadian fans.

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Photo credit: Living Light Fine Art Photography

 

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