Bond University are the 2021 Aon Women’s Uni 7s Series champions.
Across a see-sawing weekend of highs and lows the Bull Sharks pulled off a stunning double in front of their home crowd, winning the series final round and also taking out the overall championship.
It is the first time Bond has been crowned series champions since the competition launched in 2017.
Coaching director of the Bond University women’s rugby program, Setu Naseri, said the club’s trademark of ‘Unbreakable Bond’ was at the core of an amazing weekend.
He said some ‘looks in the mirror’, ‘honest conversations’ and a sleepless Saturday night were all ingredients to a title-winning Sunday.
Pre-tournament favourites, Bond looked anything but at the end of Saturday’s round of matches with two losses and just the one win, which had left their championship hopes dangling by a thread.
“We just were not as consistent or as sharp as we would have liked on Saturday,” Naseri said.
“In sevens, momentum is massive and if you do not get off to a great start things can snowball really quickly. The game can get away from you. But, the harder we tried the more challenging things became.
“So Saturday night was really about reminding the girls how we ended up here, leading into the tournament. We had some honest conversations.
“Our theme has been all around family. The rugby club’s trademark is all about having an ‘Unbreakable Bond’. And were we really honouring and living up to that? Here we were in front of family and friends and it was a case of stage fright.
“So, we took time to not focus so much on the footy, but to have a mental reset. Get an early night’s rest. Let’s reset, refresh, recover and come back with a fresh set of eyes in the morning with a new game plan.”
Saturday had been under-whelming. The Bull Sharks lost firstly to Sydney University 24-12 and later to University of Queensland 27-7. Their only win on Saturday was a 36-0 demolition of Newcastle Uni.
However, the Saturday night intervention work by Naseri and co-coach Lawrence Faifua paid immediate dividends on Sunday with Bond cruising through their qualifying final with a 36-5 win over Sydney University.
They then progressed to a semi-final showdown with University of Technology (Sydney), who they were able to put away 19-5.
The tournament Gold Medal Final was a showdown of across-town rivals, the Bond Bull Sharks against Griffith University.
Although this clash was quite physical at times, Bond dominated every aspect. They out-manoeuvred their opponents in the middle, out-paced them on the edges, and out-muscled them in defence.
The Bull Sharks led 22-0 at half time before coming away for the silverware, 29-7.
Bond’s win came on the back of try-scoring doubles to Maddi Levi and Caity Costello.
Naseri said there were plenty of plaudits to be handed around the extended squad of 13.
“I was very happy with the whole squad,” he said. “The starting seven answered the call and were magnificent. However, some girls were asked to dig deep and carry a larger load than they normally would have, such as Sophie Holyman and Diaz Seumanutafa. They were called on to play some massive minutes and they really dug deep.
“Of course, the Levi sisters, Maddi and Teagan and Caity Costello were great and Emily Bass as skipper was outstanding. The girls who played limited time brought so much enthusiasm when they did come on and that rubbed off. Players such as Phoebe McLoughlin and Ellie Draper.
“Jetaya Faifua was called in at the last moment due to injuries to Melanie Wilks and Faythe Manera, and just came in and did her job. I couldn’t fault her.”
Although his playing squad and coaching staff were deservedly in the spotlight, Naseri said there were many more people at Bond University who should also be sharing in the limelight.
“I can’t fault the support of the rugby office,” he said. “You look at the short history the rugby program has been in place and how quickly it has grown and has achieved a great deal of success already.
“Head of Bond Uni Sport, Garry Nucifora was instrumental in starting the Uni 7s competition and now gives us so much support. He was there at the jersey presentation on Friday night and the girls appreciate what he and his team do.
“There were many people from across all sections of the uni out at the final. We get so much really good support from the university. There were members of Colts and senior players. Again, it is an extension of the club trademark, ‘Unbreakable Bond’ that makes this footy club really special.
“Rugby club board president Manny Pohl was here today. He is someone who is really supportive of what is going on in the club and seeing that it grows.
“Glenn Corcoran (manager of the Bond University High Performance Training Centre) is another in the background, who has been an important part of the championship win.
“Overall, probably my main emotion is relief. But, this is a great victory for Bond rugby.”
The tournament Bronze Final was taken out 15-14 by UTS with a late try against UQ.
The full contingent of universities who took part in the weekend’s series finals action at The Canal were: Bond, UQ, Griffith, UTS, University of Newcastle and Sydney University.