One of the many people on the sidelines of the Brisbane Bullets’ comeback NBL season in 2016/17 is volunteer Matt Jones.
The 43-year-old former player was medically discharged from the ADF and is on rehabilitation, so at the invitation of Bullets head coach Andrej Lemanis he started spending some of his time helping out at training sessions.
“I’ve been on rehabilitation for four-and-a-half years so I’m not too active physically and mentally I have days when it’s quite a struggle,” he said.
“But to step back in here and have the guys accept me for who I am, and not know my story to a great extent, but to just feel part of the group with a lot of drive and passion is great for me.
“And I may have something to offer in a little area that some of the other guys might not have experience in.”
During training sessions, Matt can be found filling bottles and wiping the floors, happy to be part of the team vibe and soaking up the expertise of the coaching team, Andrej Lemanis, CJ Bruton and Mick Downer.
“I enjoy watching them work together as a group, each with their individual skills, putting their three heads together from all different outlooks and different experiences within the basketball community,” he said.
“They bond as a team at that level and they come out with great outcomes.
“It’s like watching a master class of guys on the pine.
“I learn something every day, even though I’m there wiping the floors and doing what I do, I get a lot out of it and it helps me a lot.”
Matt has also found comradeship with fellow volunteer, basketball community identity Pistol Pete, who is a Vietnam Veteran.
“I didn’t know of Pistol because I grew up in Newcastle,” he said.
“But it was quite funny coming here and then meeting Pete and having some very common ground that we don’t discuss.
“But you look into each other’s eyes and know there’s a lot behind each other and some shared experiences, which affect our lives.
Matt is comfortable on or next to the basketball court, with his love of the sport spanning 24 years since tipping off as a junior player in the early 1990s and moving through to the ABA competition.
He continued to be active in basketball after joining the military in 2000, captaining the ADF team and travelling overseas for competition.
Matt said he was enjoying the exciting and unpredictable nature of the current NBL season.
“I’ve been watching it every week, it’s very competitive – everyone’s beating everyone,” he said.
“You have a great team at the bottom, and the next week, they’re half way up the ladder.
“So it’s quite exciting to watch.
“There are a lot of great players and great imports, and it’s good to see the young talent as well.