Aurora, Ont. -
A triple crown in Ontario amateur soccer circles is a rare feat, but a budding soccer player with roots in Corner Brook now owns bragging rights.
Leanne Tobin is a member of the Ajax Strikers Under-14 female soccer team which captured gold at the Canadian Under-14 Girls Soccer Championship with a 3-0 win over the Semiahmoo Thunder of British Columbia in Sydney, N.S. recently.
The Strikers began its impressive journey to the top of the pack in Canada by going undefeated in the Ontario Cup. The second jewel in the triple crown came to fruition when the Strikers posted an unblemished record in the Ontario Youth Soccer League championship.
So what's it like being a national champion?
"It was really good. After we realized how much work we did all year and how much we accomplished, it was really satisfying," Leanne told The Western Star earlier this week.
It shouldn't come as a big surprise that Tobin is a gem for the Strikers. Her father is Gary Tobin of Corner Brook, a former senior soccer star who suited up for the Memorial University of Newfoundland varsity soccer team back in the 1980s.
Leanne's grandparents - George and Elizabeth Tobin - just happen to live in the Humber Heights area, not far from the Ambrose O'Reilly Memorial soccer pitch.
Gary Tobin and his wife Penny (Elliott), a native of Raleigh on the Northern Peninsula, moved to the Aurora region for employment opportunities. Leanne, 14, and Adrian, 16 - their two children who were born in Ontario - have embraced the game of soccer from the first time they stepped onto a soccer pitch.
For Leanne, her first taste of soccer came in Corner Brook back in 1999, when the Tobins decided to move home for two years. She has been a dominant force on the pitch since and shows no signs of slowing down as she hopes to one day receive a scholarship to play college soccer.
Of course, to play any sport at an elite level requires a certain amount of hard work and commitment. This hasn't been a problem for Tobin early in her amateur career as she faithfully makes a two-hour round trip to Ajax from Aurora to attend practices. She also commits to a training regime, on and off the playing surface, 12 months of the year. Most of the winter she travels to indoor tournaments all over the United States, which has become so hectic she had to stop playing female hockey at the elite level.
"If you want to play with the best you have to travel. They draw from everywhere," Gary said of Leanne's commitment to the team.
Leanne's commitment was evident at the national tournament as coach Bob Langford kept her on the field for the entirety of all five games, despite the midfielder being hampered by a strained knee ligament.
Ironically, Leanne's first goal at the nationals was the winning marker in the Strikers' 3-0 win over a strong Newfoundland and Labrador contingent in their second game of the round-robin.
"I don't know, it just happened," the shy teenager said with a chuckle when asked why she chose to score her first goal against Newfoundland. "I really didn't think about it that much."
Her dad is proud to see her passion for the game, and sees how his daughter approaches the game with the same drive and determination he once displayed.
However, he is quick to point out Leanne has a uniqueness about her that separates her from him and a lot of young players playing the game today.
"She's naturally right-footed, but her left foot is just as good. She's ambidextrous, as are both of them," he said, referring to his son as well. "I wasn't like that at all. I don't know where they got it from. Her left foot is amazing and so is Adrian's, but I didn't have that."
Leanne, who doesn't remember too many details from her soccer days in the city because she was only four, is happy to follow in her father's footsteps and admits dad has been a positive influence because he always encourages her to be her best.
She also had a response to dad's bewilderment about the left foot.
"When I was younger we used to do shooting drills, and I used to always try going with my left foot because I already knew I had a pretty good right foot," she said.