Hometown Hero Alex Ellis returns for 2023 Pacific Four Series

We are closing in on the women’s 2023 Pacific Four Series at TD Place. The tournament is a highly anticipated event in Ottawa and beyond, being the first major women’s rugby tournament held in the city in eight years. Thousands of enthusiastic fans are expected to fill the stadium as the Canadian team plays for the chance to make history and beat the reigning champions, New Zealand.

Canada’s 15s Senior women are coming off a solid April 1, 2023, win against the USA. Ottawa-native and front rower Alex Ellis will return from England to play for the Canadians when the team takes on New Zealand on July 8th.

Alex Ellis grew up in Barrhaven and attended Longfield Davidson Heights for her High School education, where she was introduced to rugby unexpectedly.

An average tenth grader at the time, Ellis was making her way through the hallways when her science teacher, Ms Ali Johnson, stopped to ask her to join the school team. “She simply said, ‘You’re playing rugby now, I’ll see you after school,’ and I just remember thinking, I don’t really know what rugby is,” Ellis said with a laugh.

It only took one practice for Ellis to fall in love. She played through school and, when Summer came, signed up for Barrhaven Scottish, a local rugby league. Ellis played for Barrhaven Scottish until college, developing as a player before joining the team at Algonquin College. She balanced her love for rugby with her studies in Business Marketing. Ellis’ Algonquin coaches and teammates were key in her growth as an athlete and supported her in making Canada’s U20 women’s team.

After college, Ellis moved to the University of Ottawa for a BA in gender studies. She spent her university years playing for the uOttawa Gee-Gees, where she met some impactful people and solidified her identity in rugby. When she graduated in 2017, Ellis decided on a year off of rugby to plan for her future. During her break, her coach opened her mind to the idea of playing overseas.

A reference from Gee-Gees Coach Duncan led to Ellis being asked to join the Saracens Women’s Team. Her supportive coaches, teammates, and family led her to accept and welcome what the future had to offer.

Ellis has been with Saracens for three years, training separately from Canada’s Team and rejoining them for their big moments. Ellis has been a part of some of Canada’s women’s most remarkable memories, including competing in the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in October 2022.

She is grateful for her growth with Saracens and says it has made her a better player for Canada. “Going to England allowed me to be a better player – seeing the game differently with different coaches and playing with new people,” she said, “the women’s game has been growing and developing a lot overseas. It’s really exciting to see.”

Growing up, Ellis found inspiration in some of the world’s most powerful Black female athletes, Simone Biles, Serena Williams, and Naomi Osaka. Now, participating in Ottawa’s biggest women’s rugby match, she hopes to be a role model for other young girls. Her advice to young girls is, “Remember who you are and what you want to be. There will be victories and setbacks, but it’s really about how you grow from every situation. Remember to enjoy the moment.”

Beyond her sport role models, Ellis is most inspired by her mother. An immigrant from the Caribbean, Ellis watched her mother go to great lengths to provide for her family. “My mom is a hero. She makes the impossible possible. She is the strongest person I know,” Ellis said. “Whatever she has had to do, she has come out of with a lot of grace and strength that I have admired and taken onto myself.”

In Ellis’ eyes, rugby is not just a game but an opportunity for personal growth. “Rugby is always challenging you. You can think you’re the best, but you always learn that there is something to improve on. It pushes you to your limits.” She says, “You have to make yourself uncomfortable and pull yourself out of it. You get extremely overwhelmed but learn to calm yourself, knowing slowly, but surely, you’re making the little things better for yourself.”

According to Ellis, her best moments in the sport so far include winning the USport Rugby Nationals in 2017, being named USport Rugby National Tournament All-Star, Algonquin College MVP, Barrhaven Rookie of the Year, and uOttawa’s Most Improved.

The 2023 Pacific Four Series is not only a big event for Ottawa but a step in the right direction for developing women’s sports in Canada. The amount of coverage, funding, and recognition given to women’s sports has increased over the past five years. Tournaments like the 2023 Pacific Four Series help to put female athletes on the map and give them the recognition they deserve.

Ellis welcomes the push that women’s sports are receiving, “We’re seeing our players get paid a bit more, we have some more games available to us, and more coverage of our players, their names and their stories.” Ellis says that in women’s sports, “We bring something different to the table than the men’s games.”

The tournament is an exciting opportunity to witness the world’s best women’s rugby teams, and cheers from a hometown crowd will surely energize Ellis.

Don’t miss out on supporting Canada’s Women as they take on New Zealand on July 8 and July 14th when they play Australia.

Tickets for all four 2023 Pacific Four Series games are available at: https://www.ticketmaster.ca/world-rugby-pacific-four-series-tickets/artist/3007829.

Photo: Chad Hipolito