Meet our New Recruit - Chris Jones

Wednesday, February 3, 2021 - 1:12 PM by Matt Ogg

Having failed to make a finals appearance since 2017, Swan Districts have taken steps to rectify and fill the gaps required to see them return to being a top five side again next season.

Part of this effort has seen them recruit tall swingman, Chris Jones, to their defensive stocks.

At 6ft 6in, Jones has reinvented himself as an intercept marking defender who has proven he can push forward and kick a goal when needed. With strong hands, great endurance and accurate by foot, he will slot nicely into the centre-half back position, while filling the defensive hole left by Denver Grainger-Barras.

This season sees Chris play in his third state, having begun his career in Victoria, ventured to the Tiwi Islands and now in WA.

We caught up with him to talk all things football, travel, and the worldwide pandemic.

 

Have you always played footy?

Yeah I have. Except for when I went travelling, and then with the Covid shutdown.

 

What teams have you played for so far in your career?

I’m from Emerald, which is in the south eastern suburbs of Victoria and it’s very cold all the time. I grew up there and played there all through my juniors, then played for Eastern Ranges in the TAC Cup. When I was 19 I went for Box Hill and played there for 5 years, then went and played in Darwin for the Tiwi Bombers.

 

When did you start to think you wanted to play footy as a career?

I’ve always played semi-pro in the TAC Cup or the VFL system so it’s always been a second job, which has been really cool. Playing in elite football environments, the people you meet are always good people and I’m pretty content with just hanging out with good people all the time.

 

Have you always played predominantly across the backline?

No I played forward pretty much the whole time I was in the VFL, apart from seven or eight games here and there, and now I’ve gone back and reinvented my game a little bit. It probably suits me better as I read the ball well off the boot and enjoy an intercept mark.

 

You played for 5 seasons with Box Hill, who are affiliated with Hawthorn. Was there anyone you learnt from the most while you were there?

I played under Chris Newman who was the head coach and got to play with a lot of AFL players too. I played quite a bit with James Sicily, Tim O’Brien, Blake Hardwick and some of the other boys I grew up going through the TAC Cup with. I played a game with Roughy (Jarryd Roughead) and Hodgey (Luke Hodge) who were people I didn’t think I’d ever get to play footy with. I was able to play in Hawthorn intra-club matches as well, which was an experience in itself.

 

You won a premiership in your last season with the club. What was that like?

It was pretty insane. I think we had finished seventh on the ladder and lost to the bottom team on the ladder twice that season. In the last practice game before the season I got tunnelled under the ball, hyperextended my knee and fractured my tibia. I missed the first 12 games and came back to play in the second half of the year and we won the flag. I honestly didn’t expect it, but it is something I’ll never forget.

 

You stepped away from VFL football after that. What were you doing?

I went travelling and needed the break. I’d fractured my tibia that season and had a broken eye socket from the year before. A lot of my mates had been delisted and I just needed to recharge the batteries to be honest. Now that I have had a little bit of time off, I truly appreciate what it’s like to step into a great footy club again, like the Swans. You hang out with 70 good people and train hard every week and I missed that intensity and the good football environment. 

 

You spent a few months travelling through South America. Where did you visit and what was your favourite place?

I spent a bit of time in Peru, which I really enjoyed. They’ve got an amazing indigenous culture over there which I loved learning about. It was a super cool culture shock to hang out with them and it was just such a great place.

 

You came back and spent a year with South Croydon. Were you hoping to get back into the VFL?

Nah, that was in the back end of that year and I was happy and content to go and play with my mates. It was good footy. It’s a top local league in Victoria but I wanted to go there and have some fun.

 

You spent the 2019/20 season with the Tiwi Bombers in the Northern Territory Football League. How did that come about?

Essendon have a lot to do with the running of the Tiwi Bombers and I had made a few connections through Box Hill and in footy in general. When I was asked to go up I jumped at it. I loved it. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had playing footy.

 

Watching it on TV, it looks like it would be a fun atmosphere to play in?

It’s a wild experience, especially if you’re playing on the island. The crowd goes wild and they treat you so well.

 

You were signed up to play with Port Melbourne for the 2020 season. Did you spend any time with the club before the shutdown?

I was only able to train there. Gary Ayres was the coach, but I never got to play with them.

 

Why Port Melbourne?

I played in the VFL state game when I was at Box Hill and I met a whole heap of the Port Melbourne boys and they were keen to get me down there. They tried to get me for this year again, but I decided to come to the other end of the country instead.

 

What were your thoughts when you realised you couldn’t play for a full season?

It was really disappointing. I had that itch to play again and was training hard at Port Melbourne and we were all ready to play thinking we’d still get eight to ten games in. I was watching the WAFL boys go at it and spoke to Smarty (Phil Smart) and was considering trying to get over mid-year, but it was just too hard to sort it all out. 

 

What are some of the positives you’ve taken from the year of not being able to play footy?

You really appreciate being surrounded by 70 likeminded blokes who are all driven to achieve the same goal. I can tell for the Swans that finals are an expectation, the training has been solid and everyone is sensing that the club is on the way up, and the boys are striving for that. You can definitely feel it in the atmosphere that the club is up and about, and I missed hanging around that kind of team environment.

 

What made you decide to play with Swan Districts in 2021?

I had considered playing interstate before, and speaking to guys like Frank (Frank Anderson) and Fish (Sam Fisher), about how much they’ve loved it over here, they sold it to me. I had spoken to South Freo, because Ashton Hams was playing footy for Tiwi with me and he tried to sell it to me too. But after speaking to Smarty and a couple of the boys, I knew I wanted to play for a club that is on the rise. I watched a couple of Swans games last year, and especially in the second half of the season they looked like they were starting to put it all together.

 

Have you heard much about the clubs supporters?

I hear that they have a really good following and around the ground at Bassendean it can be loud and intense, which I love and can’t wait to play in front of.

 

How long have you signed for at the club?

I’ve signed for one year at the moment, but I already feel like I’m settling in well and definitely don’t plan on going anywhere any time soon.

 

Borders were shut coming into WA, they opened briefly then shut down again. What have you had to do to get into WA?

My girlfriend and I had a plane ticket booked for the 8th of January and then Smarty rang me about 9pm on New Year’s Eve and said that he had to get us to Adelaide on the 3rd instead. We had to spend two weeks in South Australia in an Airbnb. Jesse Palmer (another Swans new recruit) and I knew a few people in Adelaide so we were able to get a few sessions in. It was a good time for him and I to get to know each other as well. I was checking the app every day as I knew if there were to be cases in South Australia they’d shut the borders again. It was definitely a relief when I stepped off the plane here in Perth.

 

When did you fly into Perth?

On Sunday the 17th of January.

 

When was your first training session with your new teammates?

The next night. It was a shock to the system as it was hot and there was no wind, and I was still in vacation mode a bit I think. I’ve adapted now and can’t wait to build from now on.

 

In the short time you’ve trained with the boys, is there anyone so far that you are excited to play with or learn from?

I’ve got such a lot of respect for Nottey (Tony Notte). I’ve been getting to know him and it seems that he is the heart and soul of the club and such a great bloke. It’s always great to step on the ground with a club legend like that. I’m excited to get on the ground with Fish, the Sandover medallist. I’ve been getting to know the backline and there are some great contested players and lockdown players and I’m excited to hopefully slot in there and play my role.

 

Have you adapted to the WA lifestyle yet?

I think it’s pretty hard to fully grasp how difficult it was in Victoria if you’ve only experienced being in WA during Covid. It’s hard to put in words how tough it was in Melbourne. The anxiety was huge and people were genuinely petrified of catching it. People seemed more aggressive and it was like you were always running at 100% all the time. It was so intense, and it was like no one could relax. Luckily my personality is pretty relaxed and I reckon I’ll adapt quickly to the WA way of life.

 

There’s been talk that your skill set has been acquired by the club to fill the gap left by Denver Grainger-Barras. Do you feel any pressure with that?

Nah not really. I’m confident that I’ll fill that gap pretty well. I’ve got red hair like him and we kind of look alike so I don’t think it would be too hard for the fans to imagine the backline without him.

 

Have you been given your jumper number yet?

19, so I’ve taken Denver’s number too (laughing). We’ve got the red hair, a look alike head and now I’ve got his jumper. Hopefully I can fill his shoes.

 

What are you most looking forward to in your time at the club?

I really want to play finals. Some of the boys here haven’t experienced that for a while and to play finals footy is an atmosphere like nothing else.

 

What strengths do you bring to the team?

I’m a strong contested mark, quite athletic for my size and have an easy-going personality.

 

What are you hoping to achieve this year in footy?

Personally I’m just so happy to be enjoying footy again. I’m happy to be out there having some fun with these boys at a really good level. Like I said before, finals is definitely something I’ll be striving for.

 

Along with playing at Swans, what else will you be doing while you’re in Perth?

I’m studying a Diploma of Project Management and might start working at a winery. I think the clubs got something planned to help me find work over here.

 

Is playing in the AFL still the aspiration for you?

It’s always in the back of your mind that you can still do it, but if it happens it happens. It’s all about enjoying footy for me right now. I’m not here to spend just a season at the Swans and then maybe get drafted. My goal is to win a flag and make the Swans a better team.

 

What AFL team did you grow up barracking for?

I was a Collingwood supporter growing up, but probably switched to Hawthorn when I started playing at Box Hill. I’m not a massive AFL watcher to be honest and don’t sit down and watch every game, because I play so much of it. I prefer to watch the soccer or basketball to be honest.

 

Keep an eye out on our website and social media pages as we keep you up to date with our new recruits and all things Swan Districts heading into 2021.