They are not only pioneers, but also the foundation for what is, arguably, the greatest dynasty in Xaverian athletic history.
With that resume, the 2006 X-Women rugby team, which won the first national championship for the program, was a shoe-in to be enshrined in the St. F.X. Sports Hall of Fame.
That happened Sept. 27 during an induction ceremony for the Class of 2018 at St. F.X.’s Schwartz School of Business Auditorium.
“We showed them,” team captain Laura Foreman said during the ceremony, noting the X-Women “flew under the radar” during the then-CIS tournament in London, Ontario.
As a reflection of that sentiment, Foreman remembered no one asked her or X-Women head coach Mike Cavanagh a question during the traditional pre-tournament press conference.
“No one looked twice at us,” she noted.
Foreman said she was “a leader that led a team full of leaders,” an illustration of the veteran presence on the team.
“They made my job [as captain] easy,” she added.
In 2006, St. F.X. finished with a 5-0-1 regular season record and clinched the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) crown with a victory over the UPEI Panthers.
At nationals, the Blue and White toppled the two-time and defending national champion Western Mustangs, who were playing on their home field, 13-5 in the semi-finals.
They clinched the Canadian title – the first one for a St. F.X. female team – with a 10-5 win over the Guelph Gryphons.
"What a remarkable story,” Leo MacPherson, St. F.X. Director of Athletics and Recreation, said in his remarks, before reading the team’s citation.
While speaking, he pulled a rope chain from his pocket, with a puzzle piece as its charm, which Foreman gave him at the tournament. She told him he was a piece of the championship puzzle.
“There may have been teams with more talent, but no one had more guts and character,” MacPherson said of their performance at that tournament.
Cavanagh, who has been at the helm of four more national championship winners, called the induction of the 2006 squad a “great honour.”
“It was a special team,” he said, adding the players “set the bar high for everyone” who has followed in the program.
Like Foreman, he recalled, at nationals that year “no one gave us much of a chance.”
“They proved everyone wrong,” Cavanagh said.
He praised the leadership of the team, noting the players were determined to get over the hump.
The X-Women were “close the year before,” going winless at nationals, but losing each match by less than five points.
“They took on the responsibility of taking it to the next level,” Cavanagh said, adding “we had a great batch of fourth-year players.”
He added the X-Women had more depth than they had during other championship tournament appearances.
“She was the missing piece,” Cavanagh said of Ghislaine Landry, the then-freshman sensation who has gone on to an illustrious international career with Team Canada, adding “she could score from anywhere.”
“It all clicked,” he added of the legendary season.
When he took the podium earlier in the induction ceremony, St. F.X. President Kent MacDonald credited the 2006 team for “the start of a dynasty.”
“It is our greatest one,” he said.
We are family
Team member Zoe Fielding said she has always found it difficult to answer, when someone asked why those X-Women were so special.
“I would always struggle putting into words – why it is we won that year,” she added.
After reuniting with her teammates for their induction during St. F.X. Homecoming, Fielding added “it is now much clearer to me.”
“This team was family. We worked hard, we played hard and we were there for one another,” she said.
“Our friendships off the field are what separated us from the other teams, which translated to how we played with one another on the field.
“We stood up for each other, we knew where one another was on the field and could easily read their playing style; putting us in a position to be able to support and motivate one another naturally,” Fielding added.
She noted the “instrumental role” their head coach played that magical season.
“He cared about us and had high expectations, so in return we all wanted to play for him and make him proud,” Fielding said of Cavanagh.
She added the hall-of-fame recognition “means so much.”
“Because every time I look at that [team] picture, I feel blessed to have shared that year with the girls and our coaching staff,” Fielding said.
Before the X-Women took the stage for their moment in the spotlight, the audience enjoyed a highlight video of the 2006 run, which concluded with a photo of the late Michelle Birks, a key contributor to the national championship victory.
“Just take a moment to remember her,” Foreman said, with tears welling up, of her teammate and friend.
Only a few months after capturing gold, in early 2007, Birks passed away. She was only 22.
At the time, the fourth-year student-athlete was the university's all-time leading scorer in rugby, an all-star and academic all-Canadian.
Birks kicked two converts in the championship match win over the Gryphons.
“This was a special honour for us because we could all reflect on the fact that one member couldn’t be there,” Fielding said.
“2006 brought the highest of highs, when we won nationals, and lowest of lows, when we lost Michelle a few months later.”