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Local Push to put Rugby on the Tri-State Sports Stage

When you think about sports in the Tri-state, you most likely think of football, soccer, basketball and baseball. However, one that has been of the periphery of the Tri-state stage, is looking to grab a little more of the spotlight.

Posted: Sep 1, 2021 5:32 PM
Updated: Sep 2, 2021 11:35 AM

When you think about sports in the Tri-state, you most likely think of football, soccer, basketball and baseball. However, one that has been of the periphery of the Tri-state stage is looking to grab a little more of the spotlight.

At first glance, it looks like a mash-up of football, soccer, and perhaps mixed martial arts. However, rugby, according to some, is older than any of those sports, dating back almost 2000 years. And what fans flock to see every Friday night in the fall, draws it's heritage from it.


"American football developed out of rugby," says rugby enthusiast Tommy Donahue. "So, when you come out to watch rugby, you'll see a lot of the similarities between American football and rugby. There's a lot of similarities there. So once you come out you'll start understanding it better, once you see it live."

And that's what Tri-State area folks had the chance to do this past weekend at the Goebel Sports Complex in Evansville, as perennial national powers, Indiana University and the University of Louisville, staged an exhibition in preparation for the upcoming fall season.

"Bringing these two groups together," says Donahue, "we're hoping to have Louisville and their conference and the Big Ten conference play more of each other, so that there's more intertwined matches of rugby between the two conferences."

The game is near and dear to the heart of Donahue's, the mastermind behind this event and a former player on this very Hoosiers squad.

"Just being a former player, I miss it and I'd like to have more rugby in Evansville," says Donahue. "I'm just hoping we get more rugby here and continue to have it here in Evansville yearly. It would be great for the city."

However, that's not to say the Tri-State is bereft of the sport. In fact the University of Southern Indiana has had a men's club team since 1991, which went onto win back-to-back state titles in 2012 and 2013. And more recently, a women's club program has been started at U-S-I. But, Donahue has even bigger plans.

"In conjunction with IU Rugby," says Donahue, "we are looking to bring the Big Ten's rugby tournament to Evansville. This is kind of the first step in the exhibition games to generate support and get folks out so that we can eventually have the Big Ten tournament here in Evansville."

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