Australia’s Rachelle Ware took the long road to the 2017 Women’s World Championship

When the IFAF NY Women’s World Championships wrapped up a couple of weeks ago with the United States winning the gold medal over Canada in Langley, BC, Canada, it wasn’t just the winning American squad taking home memories of gold. Most of the almost 300 women who participated in the week-long event took home some golden memories of their own.

Team Australia’s Rachelle Ware was one of them.

As the game neared its end, and the Friday evening sun was disappearing on the western horizon, it was shining high in the sky on Saturday afternoon in Brisbane, Australia, the hometown of Jim and Lou Ware.

However, Jim, the hard-working owner of “Jim’s Tilt Trays and Towing Services” in Brisbane, and his wife Lou ,were in Langley, cheering on their 20-year-old daughter Rachelle and her Australian Outback Women’s National team.

I met up with Jim, Lou, Rachelle and her boyfriend Luke more than once, and we talked about many things, including how they came to be watching football 11,875 kilometers from Kookaburra Park, where they have watched Rachelle play “Gridiron” for the Brisbane Saints for the past four years.

The journey began in 2015, when Rachelle applied to attend the Australian National team preliminary tryouts. She was then invited to compete in the actual selection camp, and the entire family was very excited to find out that Rachelle and her Saints teammate Eleanor “Ayla” Cook had made the final cut and were going to represent Australia in the World Championships.

Rachelle has spent the past two years following the training and diet program recommended by the National program.

“It was quite the change in routine for her, with six days (per week) of training and a change in diet,” said her mom Lou, who would have had to change her own routine as well, since Rachelle’s new diet was likely just a little different than that of the typical Australian family.

The big challenge for Rachelle was meeting the financial commitment required to play for her country at the World Championships, which was well over $10,000. When all was said and done, “it was very… very…very… expensive,” she said- with much emphasis on the “very.”

Australia’s Rachelle Ware closing in on Team Canada ball carrier Photo: Diz Ruptive Photography

Rachelle has a good job testing mining samples for Australian Lab Services, but she still went out and found ways to raise money “through individual fundraising and of course just family and friends, and then trying to fundraise through colleagues at work” she said.

Rachelle, with help from her mom, also held what appears to be a common Queensland style fundraiser. “I did a Sausage Sizzle and Bake Sale at Woolworths near home,” she added with an Aussie drawl… and then the former rugby player, with her green pigtails and great smile, laughed as she realized that I had no idea what she had just said.

All of the hard work, the training, the commitment and the fundraising finally reaped its reward when Rachelle hit the field in Canada wearing her Australian Green and Gold uniform for their opening game versus Team Canada on June 24th.

Drawing the strong Canadian team in their first game made Australia’s World Championship debut a daunting task, especially with all that went into just getting to that point. “We definitely felt [fatigue] in that game; we had more energy and felt better as the week went on,” she said.

Ware was happy with the overall performance of her team, which lost all three games but had a respectful showing. They played Canada tough and scored a touchdown against the Silver Medalists; they also gave Mexico a good game and scored 10 points against the Bronze Medalist team.

“I am proud of the way we played, but we know that we can be better; we just needed to get our own doubt out of our own heads and believe in ourselves… we all got picked for a reason and just need to be confident in our abilities,” she added.

I caught up with the Wares after the closing ceremonies and, as she stood with her mom and dad, Rachelle spoke of how good it was to have them there. “I appreciate them coming out. It has been great to have those breaks from the camp, and the craziness, and just chill out with the family… and the closeness as well,” she said.

Jim Ware did not say a whole lot during our interviews but as I was closing my notebook for the last time he looked at me and, with his voice cracking with emotion, he quietly had something to say. “We are so proud, and today, because she was a captain and ran in with the flag… it just made her dad real proud,” he said.

At that we exchanged a handshake and a respectful glance between a couple of dads… no more words were needed.

The Ware story is probably not unique; there were amazing parents from all over the world supporting their daughters at the World Championships, and many of them could tell a similar story. I consider myself fortunate that the first parents I met were Jim and Lou.

While not unique, there was something special about the story of Jim Ware, a tow truck driver from Brisbane, and his wife Lou… the mom and dad of three boys and a fine young woman who just so happens to be a world class women’s football player.

Chris has been involved in writing about football in Canada for the last 30 years. He is currently the media rep for the Langley Rams of the Canadian Junior Football League