Part of an aristocracy of elite achievers, the chance to be part of Team Canada for a third-time at the IFAF Worlds, enabled Trina Graves a special milestone. A guiding hand for the growth of the game, Graves is simultaneously, an integral part of the games heritage, essential in helping establish its promising future.
Cherishing the opportunity to grace the gridiron on home soil for the first time in her fabled IFAF career, it heralded Graves arrival as an integral part of Canada’s cultural fabric. This passionate and driven competitor holds a legacy of contributions to the game deserving of gratitude.
With Vancouver and Langley, BC as the host cities for the 2017 edition of the IFAF Worlds, their role for such an important moment in the history of female football in Canada also allowed a unique opportunity for Western Canadian football fans. Gaining the chance to become newly enamored with the heroes of the Atlantic coast, the privilege for female football aficionados observe one of the greatest players in Maritime Women’s Football League (MWFL) lore only added to an experience filled with national pride.
That sense of national pride was highly evident for Graves the moment that she put on the Canadian jersey. Although Graves has also been part of the inaugural IFAF Women’s Worlds in 2010, following it up with an appearance in 2013, wearing Canada’s colors took on an even greater meaning.
Donning the number 78, Graves was a member of Canada’s offensive line unit, a position not unfamiliar to this gridiron great. Having competed at that position in 2010, Graves would make the shift to defense for 2013. Returning to the O-Line in 2017, Graves acumen and proficiency at this position was integral for the host country.
Gracing the gridiron for Canada’s first international match on home soil, hosting Dr. Jen Welters Team Australia, home field advantage took on a more profound meaning for Graves,
“It has been a privilege each time to represent my country, but this time there was a sense of familiarity to the atmosphere that came from being at home. Every game felt like a home game with the red and white flying and the support of the fans and staff at the stadium.”
The sense of familiarity was also evident with two other cherished teammates. Also competing with Canada for the third time was Christine O’Donnell, a member of the Winnipeg Wolfpack in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League (WWCFL), along with fellow MWFL legend Alex Black. Although this tremendous triptych of talent may be humble about their saintly status in Canadian female football, the reality is that the game would never have evolved to its peak in their respective regions without them.
Coincidentally, Black and Graves both compete at the quarterback position with their respective MWFL teams, each having led their team to the treasured pinnacle of the Judy Upward Trophy. Black, the field general for the Capital Area (Fredericton) Lady Gladiators may be Graves most significant rival in MWFL play.
Having captured two consecutive championships as the signal caller for the Saint John Storm, Graves continues to guide her team towards continued glories, extending its dynasty, firmly becoming entrenched in Atlantic Canada’s sporting immortality.
Undoubtedly, the chance for both of these amazing and accomplished women to compete at the quarterback position in club play has resulted in the cultivation of an amazing on-field vision. With Black competing on special teams for Canada, both showed tremendous skill at positions far different from what they are accustomed to at the club level, resulting in a seamless transition.
Reflecting on the chance to share the Team Canada experience with Black and O’Donnell for a third time, Graves approaches it with humility. Instead of a sense of celebration or attainment, the collective focus remained on winning. Although there was a strong sense of pride in the unprecedented pinnacle reached, the tone was one of appreciation,
“The times we did talk about it, it was not so much about hey, this is number three, it was more about the memories of each time such as the facilities, practices, the level of competition and talent on TC; the teams from past Worlds, right down to memories of corn salad and cocktail weenie soup. I do not think any of us were there thinking we knew it was going to happen, so there was a lot of gratitude in the conversations.”
In a career that has spanned over a decade, Graves has truly witnessed the progression of the game at its growth. Such growth took an unparalleled level in 2017 as there were over 30 players making their international debut with Team Canada.
Although players such as Graves, Black and O’Donnell are still in the prime of their careers, the fact that they were part of the inaugural team in 2010 signifies that their presence today bridges generations. Although every season of MWFL and WWCFL football results in an obligatory number of new faces, Graves is already familiar about what it means to step up and take on a key leadership role.
Such a role was essential in 2017, as Graves accepted it as a personal challenge, with the results speaking for themselves. Discussing what it meant to be part of the veteran group of competitors on Team Canada, the sense of teamwork rises to the surface, acknowledging how there was a feeling of collaboration that set the tone for the tournament to come,
“I was blessed this round to be able to work with the captains and coaches as part of the leadership team, to ensure we were always at our best. I would like to think that in some way I was able to lift and motivate my team mates to bring everything they had physically and mentally to the table, by just being the best I could be myself.”
Considering that Canada went undefeated in the preliminary round, there was no question that this new generation of players delivered on all accounts. With the IFAF Worlds taking place on home soil, it certainly raised the stakes for this younger group of players, but their ability to excel, defeating teams such as Australia and Great Britain, was an encouraging display that the future remains most promising for Canada.
For a player as accomplished as Graves, the chance to share in the Team Canada debut for so many of these women was definitely both a tournament and career highlight. In discussing if she was proud of the effort that these women put forth, there was a definitive reply,
“Yes, and of each and every one; these are spectacular women. Such dedication and diversity can only spell great things for Team Canada in the future.”
Challenging the United States in the gold medal game for the third consecutive time, it was the renewal of the greatest rivalry in female football. With Canada becoming the first-ever host country to appear in the gold medal game of the IFAF Women’s Worlds, there was tremendous confidence that a victory would add luster to such an historic achievement.
With Canada holding the first lead of the game, actually marking the first time that the US ever trailed in a game in IFAF history, that achievement signified how the Canadian program has rapidly progressed since the last Women’s Worlds in 2013. Carly Dyck, a WWCFL champion and Women’s World Football Games participant, kicked the field goal that provided Canada with the 3-0 lead, it was also testament to the new generation of stars, as Dyck made her IFAF debut. For Graves, that moment certainly stood out as the most favorite of the tournament,
“Scoring the first points in the final against the USA. I was not on the field when the points went up, but to bear witness to the struggles, the planning, the dedication of coaches, players and staff since day 1 in 2010, to that moment when the stands and sidelines erupted in 2017, was the pinnacle of the journey. The pride in that moment was unreal.”
Although the US would make adjustments, eventually reclaiming the lead, Canada would score a record number of points, signifying that the competitive gap is quickly closing. While gold would have been the preferred outcome for Graves et al, the loss itself was inconsequential. The chance to compete on home soil, especially during Canadas sesquicentennial celebrations, was a watershed moment for female football. With Graves contributions to the game reaching new heights in Vancouver, her indomitable spirit and love of the game are part of a captivating configuration that makes her one of the most influential female athletes in Canada of this decade.
“We may not have had the final outcome we were striving towards, but what it does is proves that the leaders of this team know where it needs to go, and what needs to happen from here for the future to be even more successful. I believe we can win, and I believe we WILL win.”
All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated