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Australian Rugby Player gets a Lesson in Cedar County History

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WAYNE - When it comes time to pick a college there are many factors that are involved. There is the cost, the academic programs, the housing, the distance, and much more.

For one Wayne State student, the issue of distance did not seem to matter.

Eighteen-year-old Isabelle Robinson arrived on campus this Fall to join the Wildcats rugby team. She flew all the way from Melbourne, Australia for the opportunity. 

Robinson said a large part of choosing to come to American was the ability to have some extra time to decide what she wants her career to be.

“Just the American system is different to the Australian, whereas schooling I had to pick my career at the age of 15 [in Australia],” said Robinson. “Here I can pick it at 19 or 20 and I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet.”

She is still figuring out what she is going to study, but she is ready to see what rugby is like in America. Robinson compares rugby in Australia to the NFL in America with how popular it is, and she knows what it takes to win on the pitch.

“My dad grew up playing rugby and I grew up at the club he played at,” said Robinson. “He said why don’t I give 7s a try, and I made the state team at 14. I didn’t like 7s because it is a lot more running and effort so he said why don’t I try 15s with the older girls. I was 16 playing on a women’s team. We haven’t lost a game in four years. We won our seventh grand final in a row this year.”

Now she has her sights on winning in the NCAA. She joins an experienced group and a coach that knows how to win. The Women’s team won five straight national championships from 2012-2016.

“I hope we can win a few more championships so mom and dad can watch,” said Robinson. “I don’t like losing.”

Darrin Barner has been the coach of the men’s and women’s programs, and he is part of what convinced Robinson to come to Nebraska. Although it is a club sport, Robinson was recruited by several programs in America before committing to Wayne State without ever stepping on campus.

“I graduated high school in November of last year,” said Robinson. “We knew I would come to America so I didn’t look at any Australian schools, but there were maybe six or seven schools that were trying to recruit me but coaches program at Wayne is just like at home.”

She is competing on the 15s team this fall and will play 7s in the spring. She says she is looking forward to 15s more because “you get to wack ‘em harder.”

Robinson was joined by her mom on her move to Wayne, and coach Barner gave the two a tour across northeast Nebraska that included Cedar County. She says the farmland reminds her of home.

“It’s kind of like our country out west where we have our farms. This just reminds me of driving out to our farm.”

Robinson will be a part of the Wayne State rugby program for the next four years as she immerses herself into American culture and athletics.