Jayne Isherwood’s path to rugby stardom didn’t begin like most student-athletes. She wasn’t a high-level recruit, or a high school rugby player continuing her success at the university level. In fact, Isherwood wasn’t recruited at all, walking-on to the Pandas rugby team without even having played the sport competitively before.
And now just four seasons after playing the sport for the first time, Isherwood and fellow Panda Alix Evans were named 2018 U SPORTS All-Canadians.
“My brothers and dad played rugby, and people have always told me that I looked like I would be good at it.” said Isherwood. “I had played high level soccer while growing up in Vancouver, and I found the transition between sports to be fairly straightforward.”
Having that athletic background in soccer, Isherwood and a friend tried out for the Pandas in the fall of 2015, with her potential shining through early for the Pandas coaching staff.
“There really wasn’t much of a recruit process. Jayne tried-out for our team, and it happened to be in a season when I didn’t have a full roster; we only had 28 or 29 girls that year.” said Pandas head coach Matt Parrish. “It was pretty obvious early on that Jayne had the talent and desire to make our team. She was seeking out contact, and seemed to enjoy the physicality of rugby.”
Isherwood was a red-shirt rookie in 2015, earning playing time with the Pandas in her second season. After being converted to a prop in 2017, Isherwood has started for the Pandas for each of the past two seasons, being named a Canada West and U SPORTS all-star in 2018.
“For me it is recognition of a culmination of hard work over many years. I would not be the player I am without the support of my Pandas teammates and coaches, and my club team.” continued Isherwood.
The Vancouver, B.C. product led the Pandas with four tries in six conference games, finishing second on the team with 20 points.
Along with her athletic achievements, Isherwood was also an Academic All-Canadian in 2017, and has taken on a leadership role with the University Athletics Board as their VP of Programming.
“She’s really become one of the leaders of our program. It’s always a hope, when you get a player with that kind of size and athleticism that they’ll turn into a star, but you never really know.” said Parrish. “It’s fantastic seeing her go on this trajectory that we hoped she would.
I don’t think there are many sports where you could do what she did. The fact that rugby is such a late-entry sport, where players can join after having some athletic background, and flourish like she did. It’s one of my favourite things about rugby.”