By Jordan Hughes
Jake Upfield has overcome concerns about his slighter frame to become a constant presence in Bond University’s forward pack, proving he can play anywhere from lock to number eight.
The Bull Sharks premier grade side’s 2022 campaign drew to a close last weekend, with a 41-19 win over the Tigers. Bond finished fifth overall, falling just two points shy of a finals berth.
“I would be lying if I said the team wasn’t disappointed,” said the dynamic forward who reached 100 caps for Bond this season.
“I think the guys would agree we had the group to kick on and do well, but I think sometimes we are our own worst enemy when it comes to penalties and errors.”
It has been a key theme for Bond University over recent seasons to just fall short of finals- first grade last made the playoffs in 2020.
“I think the systems and structures around us are there, I don’t think we need much work around that. The onus is more on the players, we had chances against UQ and Brothers, but we stumbled at the final post,” Upfield said.
Upfield was part of Bond University’s first year in the Queensland Premier Rugby competition following the transition from the Gold Coast Breakers
“It has been an interesting pathway- I was here as a colt in my first year after school and I really enjoyed being around the boys,” he said.
“Back then, there wasn’t such a strong emphasis on the rugby component as there is now, so it has been great to see the progression since then.”
The versatile forward was part of the second grade premiership winning side in 2015 before graduating from his double degree at Bond in 2017.
Then, an unlikely opportunity arose in the United Kingdom.
“It was really funny how it worked out, I finished my double degree and to be honest I was in a bit of a rut.
“I graduated and I really didn’t want to go work in an office and I thought I’d throw my rugby CV out there and see what came back.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting to receive offers of full time professional contracts and when Jersey Reds offered me a two year deal, at first I wasn’t sure if I was ready to commit to such a long time.
“But I just dove in and looking back I wouldn’t change it for the world, it was an awesome experience,” said Upfield.
Upfield possesses an incredible skill set with ball in hand but has received criticism throughout his career for being undersized for the lock or backrower position.
“The first six months I was in the UK they just stuck me in a gym and I had to send every meal I ate to the strength and conditioning coach, I barely touched a rugby ball,” he said.
“I finally got to a size and weight where I could compete at a professional level and when I came back from England that really translated into my performances for Bond.”
Upfield is currently completing his MBA degree with Bond as part of the John Eales Scholarship program.
“I was bit scared at the start, I was worried I might have knocked out a few brain cells playing overseas so I was a nervous going back into the study,” he said.
“But I feel really at home and have really enjoyed being back at Bond.”
Upfield is motivated to keep achieving success with the Bull Sharks and lock down a Hospital Cup premiership.
“I generally still want to be here despite my commitments, I would be honoured to pull on that Bull Sharks jersey in 2023,” he said.