Overcoming adversity has been something that UBC rugby product Harry Jones has become quite used to in his athletic career. He has represented Canada three times at the junior national level as well as playing nationally with the senior men’s seven’s roster. Compared to the competition overseas—Australia, New Zealand, South Africa—Canada is not a rugby superpower. Thus Jones has played and battled against opponents with much more invested and developed programs.
In 2009, when Harry travelled to Japan with the U20 national team which he captained, the skill level of his opposition was readily apparent. “We played a team from Australia and a lot of their guys played in Australia’s Super 14 league. That’s arguably one of the best rugby leagues in the world; obviously, playing against guys at that level is tough,” Jones said.
National accomplishments and accolades aside, Jones is first and foremost a UBC student. He is a fourth-year student in the Sauder School of Business. It’s with the varsity men’s rugby team during the school year where he has perhaps faced the biggest adversity of his career.
For the last year and half, up until this semester, Jones has been forced to act as a cheerleader on the sideline rather than a game changer on the field. He was diagnosed with Osteitis pubis—an injury caused by inflammation of the joints in the pelvic region, causing acute and chronic groin pain. Performing sustained physical activity with this type of injury eventually becomes impossible.
Initially, Jones battled through the pain and played with the injury. He suffered through it while playing in Japan with the U20 national team, and continued to play with it while representing Team BC (in the summer of 2009) in a senior men’s national competition.
By the end of the competition, Jones had nothing left in the tank. “My body was physically unable to handle it any more,” he said. “After the end of the [Team BC] competition I was unable to do anything for about five months. I couldn’t work out, I couldn’t run, all I could do was rest. During that time watching [UBC games] was really hard and frustrating; I wanted to be out there with the guys.” A year after that, which consisted of nothing but rest, rehab and school, Harry was medically cleared to play again.
Bram Newman, the rugby team’s head medical trainer, described why the injury left Jones out of rugby for such an extended period.
“It is something that has a fast onset with pain, and it is something that can linger around for a long, long time if not treated properly from the get-go. With Harry’s case there were a few road bumps [in diagnosing the injury] but once we figured out exactly what was wrong we immediately began focusing on getting him healthy.”
Since returning from injury, Jones has proven that his presence was worth waiting for. He has produced tries in three of the four games he has played. His return to the field is one UBC head coach Spence McTavish is excited about. “Harry’s always been one of our top players,” said McTavish. “We’re glad to have him back in the line-up, he’s a big help. There’s a noticeable difference with him out. He’s a guy out there that has some pace and decision-making abilities and that makes him a big addition.”
Yet a successful recovery and a return to rugby is hardly surprising in Harry’s case; toughness and the ability to overcome adversity run in his blood. Harry has twin brothers, Ben and Charley, who are two years his senior. For over five years, while completing undergraduate and graduate work, each has predominately played for the varsity squad. Like Harry, each has suffered debilitating injuries which they’ve had to overcome. Ben has torn his ACL (knee ligament) three times, most recently at the beginning of this season. He expects to return to play again next year. Likewise, Charley has torn ligaments in his knee and has also suffered intensive pelvic injuries. On two separate occasions his season has been cut short by injuries. He currently captains the UBC squad.
Charley, who plays in the back line with Harry, is excited to once again be reunited with his brother. “We read the game the same way. A lot of the times we pick what the other person is going to do and feed off that. It really makes it a lot easier to play.” When on the field together you might compare them to the Sedins—minus, of course, the red hair, goatees and Swedish passports.
UBC flew down to California to play archrival Berkeley and Harry was healthy and ready for the contest. His plan for keeping his body fresh? It’s not your typical male sports cliché.
“I didn’t want to admit this…but I recently started doing yoga. It rejuvenates the body after the beatings we take on game day.”
Jones’s yoga will come in handy as he and his team compete in the National Invitational University Rugby Sevens Championship, which will take place at UBC at Thunderbird Stadium from March 11-12. UBC students with their student cards will get free entry to all matches. For the full schedule, go to www.rugbycanada.ca.