From Halifax – words by Richard Scott
From reigning champions and past MVPs to former professional players and this year’s youngest players, here are eleven things to know for the 2023 Toyota National Championships two adult competitions in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
1- THE CHAMPS ARE BACK
Holy Cross FC from St. John’s, Newfoundland are the reigning Jubilee Trophy winners from last year and they have brought most of their 2022 squad back to defend the women’s title. Last year, they went undefeated with four wins, 16 goals scored and just one goal conceded. From the men’s side, last year’s top-three teams were all eliminated at the provincial level. Last year’s fourth place team, Surrey BB5 United who are back in 2023, were national champions back in 2019.
2- MOST EXPERIENCED PLAYERS
Surrey United SC have registered the two oldest players in the Jubilee competition, Brenda Stratton and Kate Qually who are both former champions. Qually is a two-time champion who is taking part in her 14th National Championships, all with Surrey United SC. Stratton is a new addition to the Surrey United lineup and she holds the distinction of having gone 27 years in between National Championships – she last competed in the finals in 1996 with champions Vancouver UBC Alumni. Outside her playing experience, Stratton is part of the Canada Soccer Coaching stream and earned her Youth Coaching Certificate in 2022. On the men’s side, Jonathan Vos of Winsloe-Charlottetown Royals FC is the oldest player and this is his first finals since 2013 when he tied a Canada Soccer record by competing in 16-consecutive National Championships. Vos is also an experienced coach who first earned his Canada Soccer Coaching B Diploma in 2007 and then his A Diploma in 2017.
3- PAST JUBILEE TROPHY WINNERS
Three women’s teams feature 33 past winners in their lineups: last year’s winners Holy Cross FC, two-time winners Surrey United SC, and Alberta representatives Edmonton Drillers SC. The reigning champions Holy Cross FC brought back 16 of their 20 players from last year while Surrey United SC have six former winners, five of whom were on the club’s 2011 title-winning squad. The Edmonton Drillers have yet to win a national title, but they have 11 past winners who won multiple titles with Edmonton Victoria SC.
4- WOMEN FOOTBALLERS ENROLLED IN CANADA SOCCER COACHING
There are four women’s footballers in this year’s competition who have already been enrolled in Canada Soccer’s Coaching Education & Certification Program: Stratton (Youth Diploma), Chelsey Hannesson (A Diploma and Children’s Diploma), Chelsea Harkins (Children’s Diploma) and Kaitlyn MacIsaac (past B Diploma). Earlier this year, Hannesson was the first female coach on the bench for a men’s Canadian Championship match when she served as an assistant coach with TSS Rovers FC through to the 2023 Quarterfinals.
5- PAST CHALLENGE TROPHY WINNERS
Five men’s teams feature 15 past winners in their lineups. Three of those teams are past champions (Surrey BB5 United, Edmonton Scottish SC and Western Halifax FC) while two teams feature players who won titles with other teams (Fredericton Picaroons Reds and Winsloe-Charlottetown Royals FC both feature a former 2010 winner from PEI FC).
6- FORMER MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS
There are six former MVPs from past National Championships in Halifax this week, four on the women’s side and two on the men’s side. In the Jubilee Trophy finals, Rachael Pelat (2011) plays for Surrey United SC, Carleigh Miller (2016) and Tori Martyn (2017) both play for Edmonton Drillers SC, and Jane Pope (2023) again leads Holy Cross FC. In the Challenge Trophy finals, Paul Hamilton (2016) plays for Edmonton Scottish SC while Bobby Jhutty (2019) plays for Surrey BB5 United.
7- SEVEN YEARS SINCE EDMONTON SCOTTISH LAST WON GOLD FOR HAMISH
Seven years have past since Edmonton Scottish SC won the 2016 Toyota National Championships and they have six returning players from that winning squad (the most past winners on any of the 10 men’s teams in 2023). In 2016, the club’s motto was “Win Gold for Hamish” in honour of their longtime club legend Hamish Black, the former player-turned-manager/staff who helped Scottish win runners up medals in 1992, 2012 and 2015. Black passed away in 2021, so this is the first time Edmonton Scottish SC have reached the national finals since his passing, but he will be there in spirit and they are represented by his son Jamie Black, the former two-sport athlete who played for Scottish and notably had a career in the National Hockey League.
8- EIGHT WOMEN AND 15 MEN FROM PAST YOUTH NATIONAL TEAMS
There are 23 former Canada Soccer youth team players dressed for this year’s Challenge Trophy and Jubilee Trophy finals in Halifax, with notably the most famous being Marcel de Jong who is also a former Men’s National Team player. Surrey BB5 United are the only team with four former national youth players: they have de Jong, Yigal Bruk, Yassin Essa and Riley Pang. This is de Jong’s second amateur championship with Surrey BB5 United after a professional career that took him from Netherlands to Germany, USA and Canada including appearances in the German Bundesliga and Concacaf Champions League. He made 56 Men’s National Team appearances from 2007 to 2018.
9- NINE FOOTBALLERS WITH THE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP EXPERIENCE
Along with de Jong, there are nine players at this year’s Challenge Trophy finals with experience in the professional Canadian Championship. The most notable is Tomi Ameobi, who in 2015 was the competition’s top scorer with four goals in four games for FC Edmonton. This is Ameobi’s first year at the amateur national finals with Edmonton Scottish SC and he plays alongside other former FC Edmonton players Paul Hamilton, Matt Lam and Sam Lam. Suburban FC have former Halifax Wanderers Cory Bent and Scott Firth while Surrey BB5 United have James Connor MacMillan and Danyki Smychenko from TSS Rovers FC.
10- TEN YEARS SINCE THE CHALLENGE TROPHY AND JUBILEE TROPHY WERE IN HALIFAX
Halifax are the hosts of this year’s Toyota National Championships, the first time they’ve hosted the adult amateur championships since 2013. Most of the matches will be played at Mainland Commons, including all the medal matches on Teck Finals Day this coming Monday. From 20 teams in the finals, there are three teams from Nova Scotia: Suburban FC (from Fall River) and Western Halifax FC on the men’s side; and United Dartmouth FC on the women’s side.
11- ELEVEN TEENAGERS ACROSS TWO FREDERICTON TEAMS IN HALIFAX
The Fredericton Picaroons Reds have dressed the most teenagers in both adult competitions: six men and five women. In all, there are 13 teenagers in the women’s competition and 28 teenagers in the men’s competition, the youngest of which is 16-year old Nico Nadeau for FC Winnipeg Lions. As it works out, neither Fredericton team has the youngest average age in their respective competition: women’s side Griffons CS Mont-Royal Outremont have an average age of just 22.0 while men’s side Feildians AA of St. John’s have an average age of 23.3.