Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Former Quebec Saint Cam Stark was superb
 first time out for Canada against the USA in
2009 but missed out on a recall in 2010?
Photo: Rob Colburn
Canada has to make the final four of the 2011 International Cup. Anything less than that will be deemed a failure. For a country that boasts one of the biggest leagues in the world outside of Australia, the next twelve months are going to be the most important in it's 22 year existence. All the ingredients are there for success: excellent junior development out west, solid playing numbers in Toronto and promising satellite programs in Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal. Canada has even already had one of their own make it in the big time. Former Canadian rugby international Mike Pyke's quiet success in a Sydney Swans jersey hasn't been hailed as the start of an international invasion. But despite the fact he didn't come through the Canadian Aussie rules program it should be an indication that ice-hockey loving Canadians have got what it takes to compete with the very best with a Sherrin in their hand. There are however cracks beginning to open up that need to be quickly filled. This weeks announcement that Emile Studham has stepped down as head coach is a massive blow for a squad that is less than twelve months away from their defining moment. Studham, Canadian assistant coach in 2008 had an impeccable coaching record at club level in Canada. But it's not only his departure that has the top brass scratching their head. 2010's defeat to the United States is a clear indication that all countries are raising their game. Canada's record at the International Cup has been one of solid improvement, 9th in 2002, 7th in 2005 and 6th in 2008. The AFL is looking to invest in international footy like never before in the coming years. For Canada to figure heavily in those plans it needs to deliver in August 2011 or risk being put in the international B-grade basket.

How does it all affect footy in Quebec?

The eastern most point of footy in Canada has toiled away for three years building a football program that has gone largely unoticed by the driving force behind Canada's national program. To date, the one male representative the Quebec Saints has had play for the national team no doubt earnt his place on Team Canada wearing a Toronto Rebels jersey in the Ontario AFL. A clear indication that the Quebec program has been largely overlooked. In stark contrast, the Canadian women's program opened the doors to Quebec based players. Working together with Quebec's coaches Northern Lights coach Jake Anson welcomed two of the Montreal Angels best, Margo and Aimee Legault into the team. The result of course speaks for itself. With the Legault sisters in Canadian jerseys the Canadian team were able to defeat the United States for the first time claiming the 49th Parallel Cup. Furthermore both Margo and Aimee Legault were among Canada's best throughout the tournament. A clear indication that something must be going right out east. Cam Stark's shock omission from Canada's 49th Parallel squad was a direct slap in the face for Quebec footy. The Montreal based Stark, who was amongst Canada's best players against the United States in 2009 didn't play as many division 1 matches in 2010, Team Canada never making the time to cast an eye over the talent pool of the Quebec Saints that would breeze through the division 2 competition on the back of mainly non-Australian talent. The irony being that less exposure in Toronto no doubt counted against the dynamic on-baller in the eyes of team Canada, yet Stark was still able to make the OAFL All-Star team. The writing is on the wall now for Quebec's next two Canadian national hopefuls, Chris Lagace and Kyle Graham. Team Canada has shown that playing in Quebec's ECAFL which has developed players such as Cam Stark, Aimee and Margo Legault, two Irish team nationals and three French team nationals simply isn't enough. Perhaps it's time that Quebec footy stopped knocking on Team Canada's door, and they started knocking on ours.