Jessica wishes her dad had a chance to see her on Team Canada.
Instead, she would learn just a month before, that her father suffered an unexpected heart attack and died. It almost stopped her from going to tryouts, but she remembered one thing he told her.
“A week before he passed, he said, ‘I know you can make Team Canada,’” said Jessica. “I knew I should do it, because it’s what he’d want me to do.”
Nineteen years ago
In order to understand the relationship between Geoff and his daughter, it’s important to know how it started, 19 years ago.
When Geoff and Erin Postle were awaiting the birth of their second child, Geoff had his fingers crossed. He was wishing for a boy — but he got baby Jessica.
“When they had a second girl, he was like, ‘Oh! Great! A second girl!,” said family friend Mimi Appelbe.
Geoff already had a daughter, and he wasn’t convinced that girls were going to take the torch from him. He was all about rugby, and he played while in the Canadian Armed Forces.
With the arrival of a second daughter, it felt like dad was never going to see his kids follow in his footsteps. It’s something family and friends laugh about. They know what happened.
As the daughters grew up, a strange event kept repeating itself.
“They’d sit together on the couch and watch (rugby) games,” said Geoff’s wife, and the mother of the family, Erin.
Geoff and his two daughters could often be found huddled in front of the TV, with a rugby game paused. They’d be asking him all about what’s going on, and he’d be telling them with an involuntary smile.
As time passed, the rubber met the road. The sisters advanced to Grade 8, and they both signed up to play rugby as soon as they could, at Mark Isfeld Secondary School.
It inevitably follows what the dad did when his girls signed up.
“He just jumped right on (as coach),” said Appelbe. “He was so committed to making it work.”
But there was one thing that Geoff would not compromise on.
“The first practice, they were like, ‘Dad, can you be a bit nicer?,’ and he was like, ‘Nope,’” said Erin. She laughs.
“(He) was a tough coach with a soft heart.”
Under dad’s coaching, Jessica became a solid rugby player. She left highschool with a full scholarship at Central Washington University.
Mom and dad dropped her off the following year, and it suddenly occurred to Geoff that Jessica was, as he put it, “living my dream.”
Team Canada reached out to Jessica during her first summer break. She was invited to tryout for the U20 team, and quickly told her father.
Geoff was ecstatic. He planned to travel with Jessica to tryouts, and if she made the team, he’d be there with her in Ottawa, too, at the games.
“He forwarded me the email because he was like, just over the moon,” said Appelbe. “Which makes it even more heartbreaking, that, he didn’t get to see her play.”
Two weeks before taking his daughter to tryouts, Geoff died of cardiac arrest in his yard. A message he sent one day before relayed exactly what he had learned from his daughter before he passed away:
“Never underestimate the power of a strong female rugby player,” was the last message he sent to his girls’ team at Mark Isfeld.
Jessica was stricken by her father’s death. But something occurred to her while she was mourning, and almost dropped out of the competition.
“A week before he passed, he said, ‘I know you can make Team Canada,’” she said. “My dad is the reason I started playing rugby. I knew I should do it, because it’s what he’d want me to do.”
In light of everything that happened, Jessica packed her bags and went to tryouts. Now, it was a new feeling, however. As her dad would have been right by her side before to help her along the way.
“She was so stoic,” said her mother Erin. “It was so f••king hard… She kept looking for him on the field.”
Jessica said those moments when she looked to the crowd and saw nothing, were the hardest of the whole trip.
A month after Geoff passed away, his daughter was named to Team Canada’s under-20 women’s team.
When the day came for Jessica’s first game, her father had been gone for over a month. But he came back for one last appearance, in a shocking way.
“On the plane, her mom found a video that (Geoff) made last year,” said Appelbe. “It was all about, just that, how proud he was of her.”
In a home video that Geoff made a year before, he sits in his backyard, congratulating his daughter. Erin found the video while travelling to watch Jessica, and quickly sent it to her. Jessica saw her father’s video as she sat in Ottawa, preparing to play her first game.
“Hey Jessica, dad here. Just wanted to let you know in a little video… I just want to tell you I’m so proud of you for your (high school) graduation today. I love you so much.
“You’re going to go on to be a very successful woman. Some day, maybe you’ll look back at the video and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t think I’d be that successful.’ But you will be.”
In July of 2023, Jessica stepped onto the field, and played for Team Canada.
After her extraordinary summer experience, Jessica has returned to life at school. She’s playing rugby on full scholarship at Central Washington University, and studying to be a high school teacher.
“I’d love to come back here (to Comox) and coach rugby like my dad did,” she said. “Or be a counsellor in the Valley or somewhere in B.C.”
Jessica Postle said she’s thankful for all the time she had with her father before he died, to help her become the woman she is today.