Australian Football is well established in Canada, with active leagues or tournaments operating across six provinces, and teams emerging in new cities and regions each year.
Footy matches in Canada commenced in Toronto in 1989 with the formation of the Mississauga Mustangs (now the High Park Demons) and the Toronto Panthers (now the Toronto Eagles) in the Ontario Australian Football League. AFL Ontario runs the oldest league in the Northern Hemisphere and one of the largest outside of Australia.
Clubs and leagues have followed in British Columbia (2001), Alberta (2002), Quebec (2008), Nova Scotia (2013), and Newfoundland and Labrador (2015). In 2016, total club participation was over 1,300 players across 30 clubs, with a further 22,000 students being taught Australian football in the school system. Youth development programs currently operate in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, both within the school system and as organised junior footy leagues.
Canada has a strong national program for both women and men, including development teams that compete internationally. In 2016, a provincial program was established as a pathway for players to compete at the highest level with Team Canada. Teams from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Eastern provinces competed in the inaugural Canadian Nationals in May 2016, won by BC (men) and Alberta (women).
The Canadian men have participated in the International Cup since it began in 2002. In 2014 the team returned looking for a chance to better its 10th place finish in 2011. Smarting from not achieving its stated goal of a top 4 finish in 2011, Canada re-emerged with a more defined team culture and a strong line-up.
Northwind came away from the competition with a 5th place finish, its best ever. Canada also had two players named to the World Team, Nathan Strom and Neil Casey. Under the guidance of Head Coach Cody Royle, the team will be looking to continue its rise on the international stage in 2017.
Canada's women’s national team first formed back in 2007, becoming the Northern Lights in 2008 and competing regularly against the US national squad. The women debuted in the International Cup in 2011 when the competition established its first women’s division.
Since 2011, the team has participated in international competition annually, with players from all corners of their large country converging in the USA, Canada, and Australia.
In 2014, the Northern Lights were unstoppable throughout the competition, heading to the Grand Final against their 2011 rivals, Ireland, undefeated in tournament play. In a dominant display the Northern Lights led from start to finish to record a historic victory 5-8-38 to 2-0-12 and establishing itself as the top team in the world.