University of Queensland winger Joe Jenkins has starred on exchange with the University of Massachusetts Rugby club in New England over the Premier Rugby off-season.
Jenkins assumed the unfamiliar position of flyhalf for the UMASS Minutemen in the U.S Eastern Rugby Conference, leading the team to a 5-3 record that sat them ranked fourth in the conference and 32nd in the nation, qualifying for and winning a bowl game against the North Carolina Tar-heels.
Under Jenkins’ leadership at pivot UMASS produced the second-best attacking production in the conference, averaging 52 points per game while only conceding 14.
On a personal level, Joe’s five tries, eight penalties and 37 conversions garnered him 123 individual points, marking him the competition’s second leading point-scorer.
“I’ve learned a lot from playing flyhalf over here,” Jenkins said. “Having only played in the outside backs before coming to UMASS, I was definitely feeling nervous transitioning into a ball-playing role. Making that switch has really helped me develop my overall awareness of the game as well as fine-tuning my kicking and passing skills.
“It’s a different style of rugby in the ECRC, players are all really athletic and physical but haven’t quite got the structure going yet. I think that suited my style of play as I could take plenty of opportunities running the ball from first receiver and creating opportunities that way.
“Two of the three teams that finished ahead of us were ranked in the Top 10 nationally and were stacked full of collegiate All-Americans and USA Sevens Academy reps, so to test myself at that level of competition has really helped to improve my confidence as a player.
“I feel like I wouldn’t have had the confidence to step up and play 10 over here if not for my time at the Uni Academy back home… I never could have imagined playing flyhalf before my time at the Academy, but after two seasons I feel every aspect of my game has improved greatly and I now feel confident slotting in to any backline position because of my time there and at UMASS.
“I’m really looking forward to the Red Heavies preseason and what 2016 will bring. I’ve had a great opportunity to develop my skills and fitness over here and I can’t wait to put that in to action back home with the Heavies in 2016.”
Story by Nic Darveniza
Pre-season at University kicks off on January 5 at St Lucia.
Places in the University Rugby Academy are now available for season 2016. For more information, contact Cameron Chater at email@example.com