“Their winger came across and hit me pretty hard,” Deanna Foster, star winger on the Martlet rugby squad and an All-Canada talent said. “My foot was planted and my knee just went out at a weird angle. I just heard a pop.”Foster—now a junior—missed the entire 2014 season with a torn ACL suffered while playing for the U-20 Canadian National team. Over the course of her university career, she has been invited to play with the national team on multiple occasions, making the reserve squad for the FISU (Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire) team that won bronze in Russia following her rookie year, and playing with the FISU 7’s team that won a gold medal in Brazil this past summer. Wearing the red-and-white was an indescribable experience that Foster says she will cherish forever.
“For me, it was super exciting [because] so much hard work had paid off,” Foster said. “Stepping on the field was a different experience. That’s sort of when it clicked, while hearing the national anthem, just how big of a deal it was.”
Foster is not the only rugby player in her family—her father and two older siblings all played the sport and nudged her in its direction. She fell in love with rugby, however, because of its inclusivity.
“There’s a spot [on a rugby team] for any kind of girl,” Foster explained. “It brings together so many kinds of athletes.”
It’s odd to envision Foster in anything but rugby attire during the Fall, but during her rookie season, she considered not joining the squad due to Martlet rugby’s unique logistical situation and the time commitment that comes along with it—nearly all games and practices are held on McGill’s Macdonald Campus, about 45 minutes away from the downtown core.
“I almost actually didn’t play in my first year, but the girls that I met and the coaching made it all worth it,” Foster said. “I would’ve missed the game too much had I not played.”
The commitment to the Martlet rugby squad paid dividends during her sophomore year. McGill, which had lost five consecutive RSEQ semifinals prior to last year, broke the curse and went on to capture a conference championship and fourth place at the CIS National Championships during a dream season.
Although she has tasted success both at McGill and for Canada, Foster explained that the experiences differ significantly.
“At the university level, I see these girls four times a week, and we’re hanging out in our off time,” Foster said. “There’s a connection that we have that is hard to replicate in such a short time with the Canada girls. At the national level […] it’s sort of a more professional feel.”
Rather than being a fixture on the field, Foster has been a constant in the weight room and the physiotherapist’s office as she rehabilitates following her first major injury. Despite this, the mental challenge has rivaled the physical challenge that Foster faces on the long road to recovery.
“For me, it was more the mental aspect that was difficult because when you’re an athlete, it’s such an integral part of your identity,” Foster explained. “It’s not that people would look at me differently, it’s just because […] it makes you reconsider that without this, who am I?”
For Foster, who one day aspires to make a trip back to the CIS tournament and make the Tokyo 2020 Olympic squad, this injury is merely another stepping stone to future success.
“I use [my injury] as motivation to work as hard as I can,” Foster said. “I won’t settle for not getting back to the level that I was at. I worked so hard to get there, and I still want to go further and wear that Canadian jersey again [….] If I don’t make it there, at least I can say that I worked as hard as I could.”
McGill Tribune (MT): What TV shows have you been watching lately?
Deanna Foster (DF): My roommates and I have recently resurfaced The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air any time we have free time.
MT: First slow dance song?
DF: Aerosmith. I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing. I had it dedicated to me by a guy I didn’t really like so I ran to the bathroom and hid, but then I came out and we danced for the last 30 seconds.
MT: Gatorade or Powerade?
DF: Neither. I only drink it when coaches force me to.
MT: Favourite warm-up song?
DF: I have to say Kanye West, Power.
MT: What’s your worst habit?
DF: Taking way too long to get ready. Switching my outfit three or four times before I leave.