Pirates’ newest recruit has followed a bit of an untraditional pathway.
Nate Shipley has spent the better part of the last four years playing the sporting passion of his homeland – American football.
But after first getting a taste of rugby as a teenager, when the opportunity to come and play in Australia arose the 23-year old jumped at it.
One of the main reasons was the chance to test himself in a different environment and further his development as a player.
He has a fair idea what to expect with three players from his club back in the US (Cal Poly) playing for Pirates two seasons ago.
Coincidentally it was while abroad that the Longmont, Colorado native was first exposed to rugby.
“I first played when I was living in England when I was 12. I lived there for a year with my family,” Shipley said.
After returning to the US, he continued to play rugby during his high school years, as well as American football, and was a two-year varsity starter on the offensive and defensive lines and a three-year varsity rugby letter winner.
Moving to Cal Poly (California Polytechnic State University), he played American football for three years before returning to rugby.
“I graduated in December last year and my coach asked me did I want to play out here,” Shipley said.
So what is the biggest difference between rugby and American football?
“Fitness is a big thing,” he said.
In his case he also touches the ball a lot more.
Playing a defensive lineman he “didn’t touch the ball”.
“The tackling is also different. You don’t have the pads,” he pointed out.
This isn’t Shipley’s first overseas rugby adventure.
“I actually spent a semester in France my third year of high school and played rugby out there,” he said.
“(Then) After my freshman year we did a little European tour. We went to Ireland, Italy and France.”
After arriving this week, he had his first training run with Pirates on Tuesday, and is set to make his first appearance for the club on Saturday when they host Gunnedah.
He’ll come through second grade and expects it to take a couple of weeks “to catch up to speed”.
Originally a prop, he moved into the second row as he “got taller”.
He said rugby is growing every year in the states, and has a mate from Cal Poly joining him in the middle of June when he graduates.
A lock as well, he is a bit greener when it comes to rugby.
“This was his first season playing rugby,” Shipley said.
“He’s played American football all his life.”
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