Janna Slevinsky is updating her rugby resume as the recipient of the 2018 Canadian Women’s 15s Player of the Year Award.
It’s the latest career highlight for the high school rugby product of the Bellerose Bulldogs and St. Albert Rugby Football Club alumna.
“I guess on paper it is. It would sort of be kind of the standout headline on it or title,” said Slevinsky, a national team player since 2017.
Elissa Alarie of Trois Rivieres, Que., Laura Russell of Bolton, Ont., and Alex Tessier of Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, Que., were also in the running for the Rugby Canada award that was presented April 27.
“Honestly, I was shocked to even be nominated,” Slevinsky said. “Two of the other women that were nominated were captains on the team and then the third, Alex Tessier, is also somebody that I’ve looked up to for so long, so just to even be classified on their level it was just amazing and a huge honour.
“It’s just a step on my radar,” Slevinsky added. “I’m so excited to see what the future holds, especially where we’re getting closer and closer to the next World Cup.”
The 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand is the ultimate goal for Slevinsky, one of 40 players attending next week’s training camp for the CAN-AM exhibitions against the United States on May 19 and 24 at Guelph University.
Also upcoming for the senior women’s team is the Women’s Rugby Super Series in San Diego in June.
Slevinsky, 26, is an open side flanker with six caps and her national team debut was against England during a test-match series in November of 2017 in London.
“Subbing on to the field I was so, so nervous. Actually, one of our players went down in the first half and I thought that was when I was going to go in so I kind of had two different moments to panic,” said the U SPORTS All-Canadian in 2014 and 2013 with the Acadia Axewomen. “I went into the second half and played about 20 minutes that game and it was the second game with them that I scored my first try (in the 74th minute off the back of a five-metre scrum in the 49-12 loss) and then the third game was my first start with the team.”
The journey from St. Albert to wearing the Maple Leaf at the international level started with the W.D. Cuts Crusaders.
“The junior highs had a bit of a touch program so I was introduced to the sport there and then I started tackling and playing rugby in Grade 10 at Bellerose and it was there when it was suggest to me by coach (Cory Albrecht) that I should try out for Team Alberta so I did that and playing with Team Alberta and going to (age-group) nationals gave me more exposure to the sport. It really helped grow my understanding and of course my skills developed during that time as well,” Slevinsky said.
“When I was in Grade 12 I was actually invited to, I think it was U18 at the time, the U18 Canada development camp, so that was held in San Diego and I went there. It was pretty cool. I’ve now played with and against so many of the other girls that were also on that tour and it's been pretty interesting to watch all of our journeys unfold,” said the 2009 winner of the Shelanine Kozakovich Cup as the junior women’s player of the year in the Edmonton Rugby Union.
"After that I ended up tearing my ACL and that was in my Grade 12 high season so I took a year to get surgery and recover from that and then I started my undergrad at Acadia University in Nova Scotia,” said the captain of the first women’s rugby championship team in Bellerose history, and in the 2010 metro Edmonton city conference final Slevinsky subbed on with a few minutes remaining in the 48-0 victory over the Archbishop Jordan Scots so the injured third-year Bulldog could share in the championship glory.
“I was cleared for contact I think it was like three days before I was supposed to leave for school and straight into my university rugby career. I played all four years and had an amazing career out there,” said the Jean Marsh Female Athlete of the Year at Acadia in her last season with the Axewomen.
“I was really hoping at the end of my fourth year that I would’ve kind of continued my rugby journey with Canada at that point, but it didn’t work out that way for me so I honestly didn’t think I would be playing for Canada after it didn’t work out at the time so I took a couple of years off and then I started a masters program (in occupational therapy) at Queens University in the fall of 2017, I had one year of eligibility left for university sports so I figured I might as well use it while I'm there because I would never get another opportunity to play. That’s when I realized I’m 24 and I’m going back to play against girls who are in a lot better shape than I am and hit better so I better get back into the gym and I tried to get into the best shape I could going into that season so I could keep up with everyone.
“Heading into that season, I didn’t really expect to continue playing at a high level after that. I kind of accepted that this is it, this is my last chance to play rugby at this high of a level and it just worked out that I played well and the Rugby Canada head coach was watching and I got invited to the fall tour in 2017 to England.
"It was really unexpected and I remembered when I went and met up with the team in England I was so nervous because I didn’t really know anybody that well. I played against a bunch of people or I played with them at one point maybe, but everyone else had kind of been a pretty tight-knit core for a few years or had played U20 Canada together or previously senior women things like that. I felt like I had a lot to prove and I tried my best just to work hard and feel like I deserve to be there.”
In last year's November tour, Slevinsky started in the test matches against England, Wales and Scotland, played the full 80 minutes in each one and also scored the winning try against Scotland off a pick and go in the 28-25 decision.
Slevinsky's last match for SARFC was the 46-14 loss to the Clan in June of 2014 at Alpine field and scored a try under the posts on a run from the halfway line in the ERU spring league seeding round.
“I’ve always been a forward and there have been a few times where they tried to stick me in the backs but then realized that I don’t belong there, so then they send me back to the forwards,” said the player for the Calgary Saracens' 2015 provincial division one women’s championship team and also assisted with the Saracens' Alberta women’s premier debut in 2017.
Rugby is more than a sport for Slevinsky; it’s a way of life.
“I really like the social side of it. I’ve played different sports throughout my life, but rugby is the only one that you get together with the other team after the game and you sit down and have a meal and the game is left on the field, which I really appreciate,” said Slevinsky, whose current club team is the Kingston Panthers while doing her clinical placement. “So many of the best people I know I've met through rugby. I’ve moved around quite a bit over the last seven years and every time I go, 'Hey, where is the closest rugby club?' That's how I'm going to meet people. It's always so welcoming and it's a really strong community which I really appreciate.”