Regional Combines Wrap in Preparation for 2023 Championships

by Stephen Stamp

Canada is well on its way to finding many of the players who will wear the red and white at International Indoor Junior Lacrosse's four world championships to be held in 2023. 

Combines started with Ontario players gathering at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena in Six Nations in December to begin the process of trying out for Canada's teams to compete at the men's World Juniors, World U18s and World U16s, as well as the first ever Women's World Junior Lacrosse Championship (WWJLC). 

Canada's General Manager Jeff Dowling ran the Ontario Regional Combine along with CLL President Chris Fox and Coach Todd Wilfong. Wilfong has been on the bench in some capacity for Canada at the 2022 World U18, 2021 World U17, 2021 World U15, and the 2019 World Juniors. 

Dowling was impressed with the talent at the Ontario Regional Combine in Six Nations. He particularly liked that “a few players really blew everyone away with their performances in the fitness testing, but more importantly they were some of the best players during the scrimmage.” 

The scrimmages themselves, Dowling said, were “fast paced, with athleticism really shining through.” He noted that the goaltending was outstanding, a good sign for the goalies given that they are playing behind defenders who generally aren't familiar with each other, putting a premium on communication and adjustments. 

Canada won the 2022 IIJL World Junior Lacrosse Championship last summer in Winnipeg, remaining unbeaten en route to taking the gold medal for the third time in three competitions since the tournament switched to a best-on-best, one team per nation format in 2018 (in 2021, because of Covid-19 complications, the tournament was constituted as Canada East vs Canada West). 

However, it has been the Haudenosaunee who have swept the younger age groups, World U18 and World U16, in 2022 and in 2021. In both cases, the U16 Haudenosaunee beat the United States in the gold medal game while the U18  club downed Canada. 

The 2023 WWJLC will be a groundbreaking event. It is not only the first IIJL championship on the female side, but it will be the first ever international women's box lacrosse championship. A senior women's world championship sanctioned by World Lacrosse has been announced for 2024. 

Dowling, Fox, and Wilfong enjoyed working with the female players getting their first opportunity to participate in an IIJL Championship. As with any group of athletes, the levels of performance on fitness testing varied, but the enthusiasm to be part of an exciting development in international women's lacrosse was universal. 

The scrimmage segment of the women's combine saw players taking advantage of the chance to get targeted feedback from qualified coaches to supplement the coaching they receive at their home centres. Many of the players made immediate and substantial tweaks to their games that will stand them in good stead whether they are successful in making the Women's World Junior team or not. 

The next step on the CLL calendar is the 2023 IIJL Commonwealth Cup series in Melbourne, Australia. Originally scheduled for March, 2020, it obviously had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. Now, the Canada Development Team (CANDT) will head to Melbourne to compete against three Australian sides followed by a match between Canada and an Aussie all-star team selected from among those three teams, with the winner earning the inaugural IIJL Commonwealth Cup.