Jon Powles – SSG College BB commissioner

Me and my telescope, on my balcony in Canberra.
Me and my telescope, on my balcony in Canberra.

The basics

What is your name?

Jonathan Powles

How old are you?


Where are you from?

I live in Canberra, Australia.  I was born and raised in Sydney.  I spent the whole of the 1990s living in the UK: London, Oxford and Liverpool.

What do you do for work/student, etc.?

I used to be an academic – what Americans would call a professor – teaching music composition, history and theory at universities in the UK and Australia.  I gradually got more and more interested in the art and craft of teaching, and eventually got swept up into the bowels of university administration.  That’s where I currently am, in a university in Canberra.  It’s pretty much the same field as Mike Lowe: as he puts it, building College courses and make them not suck.  At least, not entirely suck.   From time to time they let me out to teach, which is the best bit.

What can you tell us about your family life or significant other?

I’ve been married ten years.  I’ve got two kids (boys, 18 and 13) from a previous relationship, who live with me.  My wife and I have two girls (5 and 2).  The  boys are entirely uninterested in sport.  I still have hopes that the girls will turn into a world-class scrum-half/fly-half pair, but they’s have to start showing some more interest in rugby.  At the moment it’s all My Little Ponies.

Gaming Experience

What is your background in sim gaming?

I started in the 80s, when I was a teenager.  These were dice and card sim games, like PaydirtStatis Pro Football and Titlebout boxing sim.  As a grad student I spent far more time than I should programming a computerised version of Titlebout to run on the green-screen word processor I was using to write my dissertation.  I loved the earliest generation of computer sports sims – including the Championship Manager soccer sim (I was living in England at the time it was released).  I started playing Front Office Football about eight years ago, and quickly got hooked on the depth of the sim.

What brought you to SSG?

I was looking for a multi-player league for FOF7 that had some depth and immersion.  SSG seemed to deliver on all fronts.  I quickly got sucked in to some of the other sports.  I took over the Reds on the day before opening day 2016 – while I knew the rules of baseball, I had no idea how the NBL worked.  You should have seen me frantically Googling “WTF is a 40-man roster?” and the like.

Suffice it to say the Reds should do a little better next year …

Which leagues are you a part of?

All of them … I’m GM of the NY Jets, Cincinnati Reds, New Jersey Devils, Brooklyn Nets and head coach of the Stanford Cardinal football and basketball teams.  I’m commissioner of the College Basketball league.

What are some of your favorite sports games, and why?

All the ones I’ve talked about above.  I’m really enjoying Bowl Bound College Football.  I like the development model for the players, and the way the game plan and playcalling can be as detailed or as high-level as you like.

Sports Background

Which teams do you root for in real life?

I’ve been a Jets fan since the early 1980s, when Australian TV first started showing Monday Night Football. On Tuesday night, of course.  Rugby has the same players in offense  and defence, so I was very taken with the idea that in American Football there seemed to be a whole subspieces of humanity bred specifically to hunt and destroy people like Dan Marino, and Mark Gastineau seemed  to be the apex of that species …

Other than that, it’s rugby teams.  Western Suburbs Magpies (now Tigers) . ACT Brumbies.  The Australian Wallabies.

What is your background in sports? What do/did you play, and at what level?

Me before my first ever rugby game, April 1971. Age 4. Apparently I refused to wear shorts.
Me before my first ever rugby game, April 1971. Age 4. Apparently I refused to wear shorts.

I played rugby from 1971 to 2010.  Pretty nearly forty years. Almost all was rugby union, in the forwards – hooker or flanker, though I have played both league and union and have actually started in every position except second row (too short) and fullback (too scared).  I used to be pretty quick over 20 yards.  There was nothing I liked better than putting a five-eight (read: quarterback) on his backside.  Or tacking a big guy running at me.  I always though I was temperamentally an edge-rushing linebacker, even though I never got the chance to play any American football.

Me (or, at least, my left leg) immediately after being stretchered off in my last ever rugby match, March 2010. It took two operations to get all the bits back in the right places.

I first ran on for the West Pymble rugby league under 6s in 1971 (see left).  My last game was for the ACT Veterans rugby union squad in March 2011 – although I didn’t run off (see right).  In between I played at school level, played for my undergrad university (though not first grade), my postgrad college, various club teams and veterans.

What are your favorite sports movies, and why?

My two favourites are documentaries: When We Were Kings, about the Ali-Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle”, and Murderball, about wheelchair rugby.  As for fiction, my favourites are English – This Sporting Life about a small-time Wakefield rugby league player (a shoutout to :Paul Denyer here), and Chariots of Fire, which is a better film than just the bit where they run along the beach to Vangelis.

What’s your favorite sports related quote?

“Perfection is not attainable.  But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence” – Vince Lombardi.  I actually use this at work.

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Micheal Jordan


What’s one thing we’d be surprised to find out about you that you may have not already told us?

I’m a musician – indeed, that was my first job  I play flute and piano, and conduct and compose various types of music.  For many years I was the musical director of the Australian National University Choir, SCUNA.  I’d don’t get to do as much music now as I used to, but still some: I’m currently putting together a MOOC on songwriting with collaborators from Brisbane and Alaska!

M83, the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy, taken with my telescope from my balcony in 2014.
M83, the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy, taken with my telescope from my balcony in 2014 – more then five hours exposure form this galaxy, which is 15 million light-years away – so pretty faint!

What are your hobbies outside of gaming and sports?

I’m an enthusiastic amateur astronomer.  I have a decent-sized telescope on my balcony with several digital cameras, filters and a spectroscope, and an old laptop that sits in a box outside to drive it all.    Mostly I take measurements of variable stars, and, using a spectroscope, measurements of the intensity and shifts of various wavelengths of the light from particularly interesting stars.  I then send these data to professional astronomers with whom I work, and then end up getting listed as an author on the research publications.  Which is kind of cool.  I’ve also just had two of my own articles accepted for publication.  Yes, I am the sort of guy who spends my free time staring at sports stats and variable star measurements  …

But sometimes I pause from doing the scientific stuff and just take “pretty pictures”.  I’ve included a couple here because people tend to like them.  It’s all a bit fiddly, technically – the exposures I take are routinely 5-6 hours on the same targets, as they are so faint – so telescope has to track the target precisely while that exposure is occurring, using a second smaller telescope and camera that takes a snapshot every second and  piece of software that gently nudges the telescope back on target if it starts to drift off.  You can see the little white scope in the picture at the top of this article.  And then there’s a lot of fiddly data reduction (if it’s scientific work) or Photoshop processing (for pretty pictures).

What is your super power?

I can measure the light from stars emitted 10,000 years ago and from that tell the chemical composition, velocity and structure of the star itself.

Please share anything else you’d like us to know!

I have trouble keeping to word limits.  But you knew that already 🙂

Omega Centauri, the most brilliant globular stsr cluster in the sky.
Omega Centauri, the most brilliant globular stsr cluster in the sky. A 60-minute “snapshot” from 2015.

One thought on “Jon Powles – SSG College BB commissioner

  • October 9, 2016 at 3:59 am

    Sporting Life, an excellent film, before Wakefield became the Wildcats and were Trinity!

    Excellent write up Jon

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