After months of waiting to figure out where they would play football in the fall, Brandonites Brayden Moroz and Steven Siebrecht are relieved to finally know that they are off to Regina to join the Thunder, the defending junior national champions.
The pair took part in the Thunder’s winter camps before the Prairie Football Conference formalized a territorial protection rule that gave the Winnipeg Rifles the right to claim any player living in Manitoba for their team. After the rule became official, the two Brandonites appealed for a release from the Rifles and were denied. They then appealed to the PFC president and were granted their release from the lone Manitoba team in the league, allowing them to join Regina, which is where they wanted to play.
Moroz and Siebrecht have been busy packing since they were granted permission to join the Thunder — they’re moving to the Saskatchewan capital on Saturday — but they’re quite happy with the decision.
"It’s a great feeling to finally know that we have a release and have a place to play next year instead of having to worry about figuring things out about whether we were moving or not," said Moroz, a 6-foot-3, 265-pound offensive lineman.
Things appear to be coming together for the Crocus Plainsmen graduates. They already have an apartment and have found work with a construction company to help make money before training camp starts on July 31.
Meanwhile, they’re joining a team that’s coming off its best-ever season as well. The Thunder finally broke through last year to win their first league title and then the Canadian Bowl, which was played on their home turf. Siebrecht, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound linebacker, is excited at the prospect of joining a top-notch team and also to have one of his best friends by his side.
"It’s nice because you have to go and live life on your own," he said. "It will be helpful to have a friend around when you’re going to be on your own. That will be a good thing."
While Siebrecht, 18, and Moroz, 17, are happy to have a familiar face in Regina, they’ll come across some more during the PFC season. Former Plainsmen running back Victor St. Pierre and defensive lineman Matthew Meeches have joined the Rifles this season, as well as Neelin Spartans running back Nick Ukleja. They will report to Winnipeg’s rookie camp on July 29 before training camp begins on Aug. 1.
Siebrecht isn’t sure where football will take him in the future, but he hopes joining the Thunder will give him a chance to keep playing this year and open other doors for him. Moroz, meanwhile, hopes to play in Regina for a year and work so that he can save enough money to attend university the following fall and take police studies.
Neither one knows how much they’ll be used in the upcoming season, but both are looking forward to playing in the PFC and having a chance to compete for a Canadian junior football crown.
"I’m really hoping to step in and do whatever I can wherever they need help," Moroz said. "Just hoping I can do everything I can to make the team better this year."