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Local football players have eyes on creating new semi-pro team

Northern Football Conference has a long storied history and currently boasts 10 teams, mostly in the north
The Simcoe Express is hoping to play in the Northern Football Conference next season. Left is quarterback Josh MacRae with the team's head coach, Jamie Hinde.

He's been a player at different age classes with the TNT Express and is now a coach with the organization. So it's really no surprise that Josh Macrae is looking to take the community-based club to a new level.

Macrae is among a group of TNT alumni looking to secure a team in the Northern Football Conference (NFC), a semi-pro league that's based within Ontario. Officials are looking at playing their home games in either Orillia or Barrie.

Macrae has first-hand knowledge of the league as a backup quarterback with the Oakville Longhorns.

An NFC team would certainly give TNT alumni another avenue to continue playing football. The league's mandate is to provide players over the age of 19 an opportunity to remain in the sport beyond the high school level.

The Express is a community-based program that offers football to youths within the area. It has fielded rep teams ranging in age from tyke (starting at six years of age) all the way up to junior varsity (17-to-19) and has won numerous league championships.

In 2023, TNT was a member of the Ontario Summer Football League.

Putting a team in the NFC is indeed a big step. However, with no less than 10 high schools in the area, in addition to such minor programs as the Huronia Stallions, York Lions and Orangeville Outlaws, there would appear to be a very solid base from which to attract potential players.

And any players interested in suiting up for the Express in the NFC, or wishing to secure more details, can email the organization at [email protected].

The NFC currently consists of 10 teams located in: Toronto (Allstars and Raiders); Ottawa; Hamilton; North Bay; Oakville; Sault Ste. Marie; Sudbury; Tri City (Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge); and Sarnia.

The league certainly continues to have a Northern Ontario flavour, as its name suggests. But now, it's a province-wide senior semi-pro football group that is creating its own storied history.

And the NFC certainly has a long history.

It was formed 1954 as the Northern Ontario Rugby Football Union (NORFU) and consisted of four teams: the Kirkland Lake Alouettes; North Bay Roughriders; Sudbury Hardrocks; and Tri-Town (Cobalt, Haileybury, New Liskeard) Raiders. There have been as many as 11 teams operating (like at present) and at times, as few as three.

It's estimated that over 6,700 players have suited up in the league, which has played over 900 scheduled games. One of those former players was none other than Rocky DiPietro, who played for the Sault Ste. Marie Steelers before embarking on an illustrious 14-year CFL career as a slotback with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1978-91).

DiPietro became the CFL's all-time receptions leader in 1989 and retired two years later with 706 catches for 9,762 yards and 45 touchdowns. A Grey Cup champion in 1986, DiPietro was named to Hamilton's Wall of Honour in 1994 before being inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame three years later.

The NFC has provided a playing field for players looking to prepare for the Canadian college ranks and for those university performers looking to continue playing football upon graduation.

In total, there've been 30 teams in the league playing in 19 communities and one representing Laurentian University in Sudbury. Former membership includes: Sturgeon Falls Bombers; Rouyn-Noranda Fantassins; North Renfrew Rams; North Bay Ti-Cats; Val D’Or Jets; Timmins Falcons; Kirkland Lake Kougars; Sault Ste. Marie Steelers; Laurentian University Voyageurs; Bramalea Satellites; Orillia Silver Bombers; Etobicoke Argonauts; Stoney Creek Patriots; North Bay Northmen; Hamilton Wildcats; Brampton Bears; Brampton Bulldogs; Scarborough Crimson Tide; Hamilton Wild Cats; Toronto Eagles; Peterborough Packers; and Mississauga Wolverines.