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Gillian Furniss playing for Seatoun AFC in New Zealand. Photo: Submitted
Gillian Furniss playing for Seatoun AFC in New Zealand. Photo: Submitted

Yellowknife 18-year-old crosses globe to pursue beautiful game

Days after graduating from Yellowknife’s Sir John Franklin High School, Gillian Furniss left Canada to join her coach in New Zealand and pursue her dream of playing soccer at a higher level.

Furniss, 18, has joined Wellington’s Seatoun AFC, a semi-professional team.

“It’s a really great opportunity that I probably wouldn’t get again, just coming from where I am. So, I couldn’t really say no,” she said.

Having played soccer at Yellowknife’s Sundogs club for more than a decade, it’s hard for her to remember a time when soccer wasn’t part of her life.

“I started playing when I was really little, probably like four or five … I’ve always been very competitive, and I always took it really seriously,” Furniss said.



“When I got older, like 14 or 15, we started to go into competitions like the Arctic Winter Games and the Western Canada Summer Games, and I found out that I really love competing in soccer.”

Gillian Furniss playing for Seatoun AFC in New Zealand. Photo: Submitted
Gillian Furniss playing for Seatoun AFC in New Zealand. Photo: Submitted

For Furniss, playing in the North provides unique opportunities – as well as challenges.

“Because there’s a small population, I’d say there are more opportunities like the Arctic Winter Games, because there’s not a lot of women [here] who can go to those,” she said. “[But] there isn’t a lot of competition. You also have a lot less opportunities to improve and to play soccer compared to down south.”

The offensive player credits her Canada Summer Games coach, Bri Krekoski, with facilitating her big move. Krekoski has coached Furniss in both the NWT and New Zealand, and Furniss is currently living with her.



“She’s just an amazing coach. It’s really inspired me to take my soccer to the next level,” she said.

Since moving across the globe, Furniss has been forced to reckon with changes both small and large. Granola bars are called muesli bars, cars drive on the left side of the road, and soccer is better known as football.

She has also has had to contend with larger changes – like being thousands of kilometres away from her family, particularly her two sisters – and playing a different style of soccer.

“The women that I play against, and I play with, they’re super intense and super focused when they play. They’re very skilled tactically, and they’re also fast and smart with what they do. It’s a new level of intensity to the game,” she said.

Furniss will return to Canada in September to begin school at Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario, where she will study forensic science.

“I want to be a crime scene investigator or work in a morgue,” she said.

However, with the possibility of extending her stay in New Zealand by making the U18 Wellington team for the national league, school may have to wait a little longer.

“If I made the team, I’d definitely do soccer over school,” she said. “But we’ll see.”