OPP officer Vince Jones with Arab.
Born: June 20, 1928 (Llandeilo, Wales)
Died: October 5, 2013 (Fenelon Falls, Ont.)
Rugby Ontario Hall of Fame (1999)
Lindsay and District Sports Hall of Fame (2004)
Welsh-born Vince Jones was a rugby football evangelist, forming clubs and coaching players wherever he found himself. As a 19-year-old in the Royal Air Force, he founded the RAF Station Sealand club. After immigrating to Canada, he seeded the sport throughout southern Ontario, founding the Brantford Harlequins (1950), the Hamilton Hornets (1955), the Kitchener/Waterloo Pirates (1959), London Forest City (1965), and, most famously, the Lindsay Rugby Football Club (1978).
The London team was originally intended to be staffed by Canadian players only. “No Brits,” Jones once said. “Exactly 20 kids showed up and we were away. Green as grass but as gutsy as hell.” After the players were dispirited from being on the losing end of lopsided scores, Jones recruited a handful of experienced British-born players for the team.
Away from the pitch, Jones served as an Ontario Provincial Police officer. He was one of the force’s first canine handlers, paired with a large German shepherd named Arab. As a K-9 unit, they tracked runaway children and fleeing bank robbers alike. When he was transferred from city to city, he brought with him an oval football and a fanatic’s love of the game.
“I was born into a place that only knows how to live through rugby,” he told the Lindsay This Week newspaper in 2004.
“The thing I love about the game is that when you play the first half, you feel out your opponents’ weaknesses and test their strengths. Then, in the second half, you put what you’ve learned towards beating them, and test their strengths as a team. And then finally you socialize, or what I call the aprés game.”
A longtime coach, Jones over the years added women’s rugby and flag rugby to his responsibilities. In 1989, he was named Ontario rugby coach of the year. He retired from the OPP that same year with the rank of staff sergeant after 30 years’ service.
His programs lured untold hundreds of youth into rugby programs and Lindsay has produced several players who have qualified for the national men’s and women’s teams.
In 2003, the Lindsay RFC moved into a new clubhouse on Greenway Road, a street that has since been renamed Vince Jones Road.
In recent years, Jones found it difficult to maneuver around the sidelines, so clubs across Canada chipped in to buy him a golf cart, which was dubbed the Vincemobile. Three weeks before his death, thieves broke into the clubhouse, stealing cash and several items, including the golf cart.