Frank Jones is hoisted by Brandon Barbarians teammates for a lineout during a rugby match against the Winnipeg Highlanders on Sunday at John Reilly Field. A starter on the Brandon University men’s volleyball team, Jones is keeping active by playing rugby this summer. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Brandon University Bobcat Frank Jones is showing a different side of himself to Wheat City sports fans this summer.
During the winter, Jones showed off his range, speed and size with the Bobcats men’s volleyball team. He has traded in finesse for a full-contact sport this summer as he has been playing with the Brandon Barbarians Division 1 men’s squad.
The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Regina native hasn’t been hiding from the contact either. He’s not afraid to run over opponents when he has the ball, make a tackle when they’re running at him and he’s right in the middle of scrums as a lock.
"I quite enjoy being able to run into people," said Jones, whose range is used on lineouts in the air as a jumper. "Obviously you can’t do that in volleyball and I have a lot of pent-up energy to release in the off-season, which is good (for playing rugby)."
Jones, who redshirted his first year with the Bobcats before starting at middle last season, decided to stay in Brandon this summer and was looking for something to do to keep him active. A few people mentioned the Barbarians to him and, since he has been playing rugby as long as volleyball, he decided to join the Barbarians.
He helped the Barbs win the Manitoba Cup pre-season tournament and the squad has posted a 3-1 record so far during the Rugby Manitoba regular season. The 23-year-old is loving his time on the pitch, but is well aware of the risks that come with playing the sport.
Jones admits his top priority is volleyball and the Bobcats, and he knows there’s a chance of getting injured playing rugby. However, he’s doing everything he can to make sure he’ll be healthy when Bobcat training camp begins later this month.
"Every game there’s always a chance I can injure myself, but I try to play in the safest way possible because ultimately I came to Brandon to play volleyball, but it just so happens that I was lucky enough that I was able to play for the Barbs this season," he said. "Once volleyball season comes forward, that will be my priority, but it’s good for the opportunity (to play rugby)."
Jones had injury issues last volleyball season, and he doesn’t want to deal with them again. He broke his pinkie during the first semester, forcing him to miss five matches.
He continued to play a major role with the team when he returned after the Christmas break and ended up second on the Bobcats with 59 blocks and fourth in kills with 136.
Jones hopes to continue that role this season, his final year of CIS eligibility, and he feels the Bobcats are poised for a run deep into the playoffs, and possibly to the program’s first national title.
"I’m pretty confident in our team already, even though it hasn’t started yet, but I’m ready to go and ready to start," he said.
While the Barbarians have had success with Jones in the lineup, he won’t be there for much longer. He told the squad that he wouldn’t be able to play once the Bobcats open training camp.
That doesn’t mean he’s planning to end his relationship with the team. If Jones can’t find a professional volleyball contract in Europe after the CIS season, he may don the Barbarian blue again next summer. He also plans to be at John Reilly Field any time he can for the rest of this season to support the team as well.
"As much as I can I’m going to be on that field, whether I’m dressed (on the bench) or sitting and watching the games in the stands," he said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 12, 2014