Fame was never on Deb Moore’s radar when she led her Century Plaza Mardi Gras touch football team to six national championships in a row from 1986 to 1991. But that’s exactly what she and her teammates will achieve Oct. 5 when they become the first women to be inducted into the B.C. Football Hall of Fame.
The announcement of their honour was made last week at BC Place Stadium.
Moore, a Burnaby school teacher for 35 years, began her touch football career as a receiver after several years playing other competitive sports like soccer, softball and volleyball. Many of her teammates were also accomplished athletes who were new to football — one, Debbie Huband, played for Canada’s women’s Olympic basketball team; another was on the national rugby side.
All had been recruited by Colin Farrell and Larry Doan to play in a new Vancouver league that launched in 1984.
“We were a superteam,” Moore said.
The women spent two years learning the intricacies of football, studying the playbook, getting comfortable with the game’s nomenclature.
By 1986, Moore said they were ready to compete in the Touch Bowl national championship, which was being held that year at Burnaby’s Swangard Stadium.
It was on the eve of the tournament that Moore’s football career took a decided turn in trajectory. With starting quarterback, Laura Stewart, out with an injury, the Mardi Gras’s coaches turned to Moore, who had throwing experience in softball. Although definitely different, that background provided a basis to make the move.
“I had a good arm,” she recalled. “I could read the defences.”
In fact, Moore’s arm was so good she earned the nickname “Radar,” as she led her team through the tournament undefeated, including a 23-14 win over the Ottawa Voyageurs in the final.
When Stewart returned the next season, the two women platooned at pivot, with the veteran handling the long-bomb plays and her protégé coming in when precise, short-yardage gains were required.
The combination proved unbeatable for the next five years. But, Moore said, the women didn’t rest on their athletic laurels to retain their status.
“We were used to competing,” Moore said. “We knew what it took to work hard, persevere and become good.”
Moore said she loved the game so much, she even brought it to her class at Seaforth Elementary, where she taught Grade 7. One of her pupils was Michael Bublé. By the early 1990s the team was starting to break up as players veered into careers and raising families.
But the bond formed by learning and mastering football together, where they traveled across the country to compete, even playing in an October snowstorm in Ottawa, remains strong, Moore said.
“We made lifelong friendships.”
There have been occasional reunions, including taking to the field once more at an Okanagan tournament several years ago.
In 2011 the team was named to the BC Touch Football Hall of Fame. Being honoured by the BC Football Hall of Fame will give all the women a chance to reflect on the significance of their accomplishments, Moore said.
“There’s a lot of talented women out there,” she said. “Women can be in the forefront and be recognized on an equal level as men.”
Members of the Mardi Gras who will be inducted into the hall include: Devona Adams, Miekel Aichele, Berni Batchelor, Andrea Brauner, Marla Britton, Cathy Bultitude, Cori Campbell, Tiffany Chester, Laura Houle,
Debbie Huband, Annie Hutchinson, Lynne Leclair, Monique Lizee, Trudy Lyons, Diane Materi, Robyn McDonald, Cathy Morgan, Calli O’Brien, Debbie Osborne, Diane Perry, Sharon Staples, Laura Stewart, Dawn Storey-Gray, Bett Watt, Cindy Whieldon and coach Mike Millar.