Noblesville Rugby Club late coach remembered


The Noblesville High School girls rugby team was coming off a successful run to the semistate before losing to a team of Hamilton Southeastern and Fishers players in late May.

Less than six weeks later, the team received a devastating blow when coach Justin Henson, a 41-year-old Noblesville resident, died July 6 at Riverview Health from multiple contributing factors. He had been head coach since May of 2019 after previously serving as an assistant coach.

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“Our mountain of a man and leader of our team passed away very unexpectedly and very much too soon,” assistant coach Laura Piguet said. “Justin Henson was the heartbeat of this team. He wore his emotions on his sleeve and cared about each player and their family. He could be blunt, yet caring, then give an embrace that said, ‘You messed up, but it’s OK.’”

Piguet, who played club rugby at Ball State University, said she and Henson spent the last 11 years coaching together, frequently texting and calling to discuss the season.

“But above all that, we had a bond and friendship that I will always cherish and miss dearly,” she said. “He touched so many lives and we were so lucky to have known him. I always looked forward to his early morning texts, whether it was a holiday, Mother’s Day or birthday. This will be the first time in 11 years I won’t get that birthday text.”

Abby Fosnot, who will be a senior, shared a tribute to Henson on how he was like a dad to her.

“You looked strong and tough but really you were just a big teddy bear,” she said. “You were there for me when it felt like my world was going downhill. I didn’t just play rugby for the sport, I played for you. You placed a special type of confidence in me that I’ll always cherish. I will forever be grateful for the sacrifices you made for the team.”

Ayla Howery, who will be a junior, said the girls came together as a family this season.

“We worked together as a family,” Howery said. “In rugby, if one person isn’t doing their job, it doesn’t work.”

Howery said the team began to communicate better.

“We lifted each other up,” Howery said. “We started to try our hardest, no matter what the score looked like, just keeping our heads high.”

The girls also reached the semistate in spring 2021. The teams play with seven players on the field in the fall and 15 in the spring.

The Noblesville boys team also reached the semistate, its best finish since 2018 and 2019.

Stacy Ambler, who recently finished her term as the club president, said the program wants to restart its junior high program.

“We are working on getting youth teams again,” Ambler said. “Once the COVID-19 pandemic began, it became a problem for rugby teams. But we are actively working to get teams again for junior high.”