White River Rugby Club fosters friendships as it grows sport


For White River Rugby Club member Nick Balentine, rugby is more than just a sport. It has provided him with friendships and a strong support system.

“I moved to Indianapolis right after college and I did not know many people,” the Carmel resident said. “This team, and rugby, in general, consists of social and supportive individuals. This is a place where you can find friends that last a lifetime. When I joined this team, I instantly became part of that culture which allows me to not only stay active but gives me a place where I can be myself.”

Balentine said the team, founded in 1999, has members of all ages, backgrounds and skill sets.

“But we all share that camaraderie and passion for the game and the sport’s culture,” he said. “I found great friends on this team, and I look forward to every practice, match and event, where I can just forget about work or daily problems and just play a sport I love with friends that feel the same way.”

The club plays its home matches on the field behind the American Legion Post 155, 852 W. Main St., Carmel. The team’s final home match of the fall season is set for 1 p.m. Oct. 15 against the Columbus Rhinos. Columbus is the only other in-state conference opponent. A social gathering with both teams follows the match.

“We share the pitch with the Carmel High School Rugby Club, which is coached by Leo Romero, one of our players and a very well-respected referee in our conference,” White River coach Jeff Russell said.

Russell, a Whitestown resident and Zionsville Community High School graduate, started playing for Zionsville Rugby at age 16.

“Being accepted unconditionally into my rugby team meant that I stayed out of trouble and ultimately was set on a path of relative success in life,” Russell said. “Keeping the club running requires funding and administrative help. So, even if you don’t play on the pitch, we have a spot where anybody can contribute.”

There are 33 players on the White River Cub with 15 playing per side in a match.

“We are rebuilding the team after the (COVID-19) pandemic,” Russell said. “We are in Year 1 of a three-year club development plan. We would like to see the count of our registered players exceed 50 by then. We have seven players who are playing their first year mixed in with experience levels exceeding 20 years.”

Russell said team members reside throughout the Indianapolis area. The club has players who hail from South America, Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Italy, Germany and the U.S.

“My coaching philosophy and our team culture are centered around positive reinforcement and mutual improvement by keeping each other accountable to give maximum effort,” Russell said.