Not everyone gets the opportunity to earn a full-ride through university based on their athletic talents. Most athletes are left merely dreaming about getting the chance to play their sport at the university level. Meanwhile, Jaelei Myers of St. Francis Xavier University was lucky enough to play two sports. Despite leaving her hockey career behind in her third year, she had previously paired her winter sport with rugby and continued on with her rugby career at X until her final year.
The national rugby championship recently took place at the University of Lethbridge and saw StFX place in the top three once again as they came home with a bronze medal, following a bounce-back win against the Calgary Dinos. Their star player in the win was none other than our senior spotlight player.
Hailing from Carlyle, Saskatchewan, this Prarie native made her way to Antigonish, Nova Scotia and made it her home. Her original journey to the east coast didn’t begin with her rugby skills. In fact, Meyers was approached by StFX women’s hockey assistant coach Willie Joe Sofan when he saw her playing for the Notre Dame Hounds in Saskatchewan. That is when X was first put on her radar.
As a woman playing two really aggressive sports, Meyers was physically and mentally well-prepared to take on such a challenge. Rugby being arguably more tough than the other, Myers never came across people who questioned her ability to hold her own. “I grew up playing [men’s] hockey, so people knew I was tough. [If anything] this sport empowered me more. I think in general it is very empowering for women to play rugby.”
Meyers hopes to continue her career in rugby, and with the resume behind her, it’s safe to bet that she has a higher platform waiting for her. Already having represented Canada at the U20 level, Jaelei has gained a world of knowledge that is set to strike fear in her future opponents.
“It was a stepping stone for my career – to be in an environment with the best people in the country. It was a huge honour,” says Myers. “You are pretty much forced into this environment where you’re able to get more knowledge.”
It was that knowledge that she brought back to X, and really stepped up as a leader for the squad.
After winning a silver medal in France in 2012, and then a bronze medal in 2016, the sport still has a lot of ground to cover in terms of recognition in our country. However, the medals have certainly allowed for growth and awareness.
“I grew up in a small town that had no idea what rugby was. Now there’s hundred of people playing rugby; it has grown. Young girls are now playing more and more,” Myers adds.
She us certainly a role model that young girls can look up to.
Myers hopes to end up at the 2021 World Cup, sporting the Maple Leaf proudly. With the season now wrapped up, it’s a bittersweet end to the young Olympic-hopeful’s career.
“My university career has now come to a close […] The future is bright for X rugby and I am so excited to watch the players to evolve. Two Gold and one Bronze makes for a pretty great career. But the friendships I will take with me go far beyond the rugby pitch.”