Rookie Experience: Dean Fairall

The National Lacrosse League can be cutthroat. Making your way onto an active roster can be a grind. Sometimes you won’t succeed on your first, second, or even third try – it can be that difficult. Panther City Lacrosse Club’s Dean Fairall was one of those guys that had to fight tooth and nail year after year to get his shot in the big leagues.

Born and raised in St. Albert, Alberta, Fairall was learning how to work with a lacrosse stick not long after he began running around his home as a young boy. He grew up loving the sport but was a goalie throughout his youth – you read that correctly. It wasn’t until his Jr. lacrosse years that he began roaming around the floor looking to score goals.

By 2016 in his first season of Sr. lacrosse, Fairall was already a quality goal scorer for the Sr. B St. Albert Miners. That Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League postseason, he led all point-getters with 24 and was 1 of 4 players to have double-digit goals. The following regular season, he notched 17 points in only four games. Shortly after his impressive early stints in the RMLL, Fairall took his game further west to British Columbia to play in the Western Lacrosse Association.

After moving to the WLA, Fairall made an immediate impact with Coquitlam Adanacs scoring 21 goals in his first summer season – tied for the 10th-most goals that year. He continued to impress in 2018, ending that season ranked in the Top-15 in points.

Later that year, the undrafted Fairall was finally signed by the Colorado Mammoth and was given a chance to prove himself at the professional level. He didn’t make the team that year, but the Mammoth gave him another shot during the next training camp. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out again, as he was cut before the season started. Continuously being left off NLL teams was starting to ware on Fairall.

“I felt like I was doing all the right things and not getting rewarded,” Fairall said. “I was getting cut over and over again and not really getting a reason. I was being told things like, ‘We’re going to give this other guy a shot,’ or it was situations where the coach knew the other kid from Jr. lacrosse. It was one of those things where I knew I was close; It wasn’t like I wasn’t skilled enough. I felt like I had to keep going.”

Another standout WLA in 2019 kept Fairall on the radar of general managers around the league – it helped that the league was starting to expand around this time. Then COVID hit, and Fairall’s NLL dreams had to be shelved.

During the COVID pause of lacrosse, PCLC were looking to form their inaugural team, and Fairall’s NLL hopes were about to breathe new life. In September of 2021, Fairall was signed by the new Fort Worth-based team. However, if you can believe it, Fairall was cut again only a couple of weeks before the season opener.

At this point, Fairall admitted that if it weren’t for family and friends encouraging him to stick it out, he would’ve quit lacrosse. Then, as it was a sign not to give up, an opportunity in the NLL-partnered Arena Lacrosse League came about. It was here that Fairall would make it impossible for any team to ignore what he could bring to the table. Fairall recorded a league 3rd-best 6.6 points per game with the Shooting Eagles, a team full of guys he knew little about.

“I looked at my [Shooting Eagles] roster, and I probably only knew four or five guys,” Fairall said. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m getting old.’ It was a bunch of kids, some of whom were in Jr. lacrosse and some just coming out of Jr., so I was pretty hesitant going in there.”

“Going into that season, my teammates had confidence in me, and I’ve always played better when I have confidence. I pretty much had the green light to take my shots, shots that I probably wouldn’t have taken in the WLA, so it was great to be there and get the confidence going and get some reps in an NLL-style of game.”

His 8-game stretch with the Shooting Eagles earned Fairall a call back from PCLC midway through the NLL season. It was at that point that he was more ready than ever to show the world what he was capable of in the box.

In just ten games with PCLC, Fairall scored 14 goals and tallied 17 assists for 31 points. No moment was more special to him than his first NLL goal in his first game just a short way from home in Calgary against the Roughnecks.

More than just having a great season personally, Fairall was helping PCLC win. He joined the team when they were 1-7, and they finished the year 7-11. Not to say it was his doing, but when a team has a winning record when you’re playing, that is a pretty good indication you’re doing something right.

“Every game, I was just trying to enjoy every moment,” Fairall said. “I had worked my whole life to get [to the NLL], and you never know when your next opportunity is going to be, so I was doing my best to enjoy every moment.”

PCLC rewarded him for his efforts with a new one-year deal back in September. His journey may not have been one that he would’ve scripted when he was a boy, but all of the trials and tribulations that Fairall faced during his playing career have made him the man he is today. Now it’s time for him to enjoy this ride as long as he can keep it going – he has no plans on having it end any time soon.


By Adam Levi