BY CRAIG SLATER, LEADER-POST
Smiling and laughter are often not associated with the many fierce and heated battles that unfold along the line of scrimmage between the biggest players on the football field. But the Regina Riot defensive lineman has bucked that trend in her rookie season with the Western Women’s Canadian Football League club.
Her upbeat and cheery demeanour was present from Day 1.
“I remember making the hit, making the tackle and I probably haven’t stopped smiling since then,” Wallis said, in reference to her first WWCFL game on May 13. “It was then that I knew I was doing something I really loved and was going to have a lot of fun playing this game.”
Following a 13-year hockey career, one that included a few seasons at the CIS level with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, the 26-year-old product of Hudson Bay made the transition to football. While a student at the U of S, Wallis became a big fan of the game, mostly because her boyfriend (now husband) Scott Wallis was a player for the Huskies. All Becky Wallis (nee Slowski) had to go on was a few games in a women’s touch football league in Saskatoon.
“I have always had an interest in football, always had an interest in playing,” she explained. “I just never had the opportunity to be a part of something like (the WWCFL). When I heard about it, I just had to get involved.”
Her passion for the game is evident. Wallis lives in Yorkton with her husband and makes the drive to Regina twice a week for practices and any additional trips to the city for games, including the Riot’s (2-1) scheduled contest on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium versus the defending WWCFL champion Saskatoon Valykries (3-0). Kick off is scheduled for 11 a.m.
When Wallis joined the Riot earlier this spring, she didn’t know what she was getting herself into. She didn’t have a friend on the team and she wasn’t familiar with the coaching staff or talent level in the league.
“You have to make sacrifices sometimes when it comes to things you really want to do,” she said. “I don’t really notice all of the driving because it’s something I want to do. I want to be at practice and at games.
“Being a part of this team is so much more than I could have ever imagined. There are girls on this team that come from all walks of life ... but we fit together as a team and we all have a blast playing together.”
Wallis has shone as a rookie. She has led the team tackles — she registered 32 tackles in her first two games this season — in each of the three games. She didn’t have an explanation for how a converted defenceman in hockey can transition to football and have such an immediate impact.
“All I know is that I’m surrounded by great teammates that help me play at my best,” Wallis said. “I knew I always wanted to play on defence, though. I didn’t know if I wanted to carry the ball. I think I would rather hit someone and make the tackles.”
The Riot and Valykries have already clinched playoff berths. Both teams will host playoff semifinals on June 24.