Maternity Waiver: Selena Njegovan on site at Scotties Pipa News


Maternity Waiver: Selena Njegovan on site at Scotties

After nearly a week of uncertainty about the event’s accessibility due to her maternity leave, Team Lawes Vice President Selena Njegovan has confirmed her intention to compete in the Canadian Women’s Curling Championship.

Both Curling Canada and Njegovan said they cleared things up after a miscommunication led to confusion over her role in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts while on leave.

Njegovan was told last week that she would not have the same access as other athletes during the February 17-26 event. The organization later clarified matters with the team and granted her the desired entry as a non-playing substitute.

“I was very excited and we are happy that Curling Canada has changed its mind,” said Njegovan. “It seemed like there was miscommunication everywhere.

“Once we sat down and chatted, I was given permission to sit on the couch.”

Many teams use an alternate — known as a fifth — in national playdowns and other top-flight events. Traditionally, the deputy occasionally sees game action and is generally focused on team support duties.

A “non-playing” alternate was a new consideration for Curling Canada during the 18-team competition. The only restriction on Njegovan is that she is not allowed to step on the ice at the Sandman Center in Kamloops, BC

“I think the confusion was that this was a brand new situation,” she told Winnipeg-based The Canadian Press. “They’ve never had anything like it before.”

Curling Canada’s Nolan Thiessen said that when an athlete is on the ice at a Scotties game or practice, that would be considered an alternate’s duties. Njegovan, who is due at the end of March, is not eligible for this during his leave.

However, Njegovan gets to sit at the end of the sheet with coach Lisa Weagle, assisting players during timeouts and assisting during practice sessions from the ice-level carpeted area.

When she was initially told she would have limited access to the venue, she considered staying home and supporting her teammates remotely through online meetings.

Access clarification came through a team call with Thiessen on Sunday evening. He confirmed the changes a few days later when reached in Edmonton by The Canadian Press.

“I’m definitely going now,” said Njegovan, who has permission from her doctor to travel. “I plan to be there all the time as long as the girls are playing.”

Lawes earned the first wild card berth with the Scotties thanks to her team’s No. 4 ranking in Canada’s Winnipeg. Edmonton’s Laura Walker will replace Njegovan in the lineup.

The team had to apply for a maternity waiver to allow an out-of-county player to fill in for the game.

Curling Canada initially limited entries to only the top five teams in the domestic rankings. After much outrage, including criticism from some high-profile curlers, the organization backtracked on the policy twice.

The first adjustment allowed all teams to apply for the exemption from the 2024 Nationals. Another change followed a day later, allowing all teams at this year’s championships to register.

“This (last) week hasn’t been great with how everything has rolled out,” said Thiessen, the organization’s executive director of marketing and fan experience.

“I think everything about a lot of this stuff was done with the best of intentions, but obviously it hasn’t been delivered well… we at Curling Canada have been quick to say that we didn’t succeed here. So we want to improve and we always do. “

Njegovan said she sees developments over the past week as positive.

“I don’t want to blame Curling Canada at all as this was a new situation and there were a lot of moving parts,” she said. “They went back and corrected everything and made sure everything was okay going forward. I really appreciate that.

“I really think it’s a step forward and it sounds like people are really happy that these changes have been made.”

Njegovan, Lawes runner-up Jocelyn Peterman, lead Kristin MacCuish reached the semifinals of the playdowns in Manitoba, but fell to Meghan Walter, who lost to Jennifer Jones in the final.

Walter and Casey Scheidegger joined Lawes as the wild card entries with the Scotties.

“You never know when you’ll get back there, so you always want to be involved in whatever way you can,” Njegovan said. “We’ve had such a wild year with a few pregnancies and several players coming in and out.

“We just worked really hard and I just wanted to be part of the team and be there.”

After several days of off-ice storylines, the focus can finally shift to curling as the Scotties return to normal after limited attendance and COVID-19 protocols have been in place for the past two years.

Lawes is one of the headliners in a deep field with Jones, Ontario’s Rachel Homan and defending champion Kerri Einarson.

“I think (our) team is capable of winning everything,” said Njegovan. “We’ve worked really hard this year. Even though we’ve had different players in different positions, it just shows our resilience throughout the year.

“To have that success with changing situations, I’d say, is pretty impressive. So I’m super excited to see how the girls do and we’ll just see what happens.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 8, 2023.