A local football team is hoping to attract Winnipeg’s elite young players, and their head coach says an affiliation with the Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers might just be the ticket.
Geordie Wilson, coach of the Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL)’s Winnipeg Rifles, told 680 CJOB’s Sports Show his team’s players are protected by the Bombers’ territory — which means they can get a shot with the CFL team without having to go through the draft.
That’s not an option for players who go the route of USports or the NCAA at post-secondary schools in Canada or the U.S.
“The Bombers want to make the Rifles an integral part of their system,” said Wilson.
“Our players are now training at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ weight room, in their facility. We’re there three days a week. It’s pretty exciting stuff.”
Wilson said recognition of the CJFL as a feeder to Canada’s big league is growing, with almost 40 CFL players last season having CJFL experience.
The message the Rifles have for local parents, Wilson said, is that they’re an alternative to the university system for elite local players who want to continue in the sport after high school.
“You should go to university because you want to be a teacher, you want to be an engineer, you want to be an architect, physiotherapy, etc.,” said Wilson.
“What happens is some kids go there and maybe they get an arts degree… maybe some of them don’t even graduate, but they do enough to stay eligible, and after football’s finished, they didn’t make the CFL, now they’ve gotta find a job.”
Playing in the Canadian junior league, he said, means players can pursue whatever path they like — whether that’s going to college, trade school, university, or even just working — and still hold onto their pro football dream.
“You can play extremely high-level football, have a chance to still reach your CFL dreams, but chase a career or profession you really want to do at the same time,” he said.
“We really want to get some of those elite kids that are in Manitoba, get them in with our program, get them involved.
“If they’re good enough and they produce, get them into the Bombers training camp, and see where they go from there.”
The Rifles are holding an info night Thursday at their practice facility at 100 Frobisher Road.
“If you have a kid that’s in Grade 10 to 12, bring ’em to the information night so they can see what opportunities are out there for them after high school,” said Wilson.
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