No ‘Big Dance’, but plenty to celebrate in 2021

September 3, 2021

PICTURE: Cavan Flynn

 

By Pat McLeod

Brisbane Premier Rugby grand finals will be going ahead this weekend without a Bull Sharks involvement, but the club’s top grade already has a catch-cry for next season – ‘Redemption 2022’.

Bond Rugby Club campaigned four teams in last weekend’s opening round of finals – Women’s First Grade, Men’s Second Grade, Colts 1 and Colts 2. Although all four teams played exceptionally well, none progressed to the ‘Big Dance’.

The Bull Sharks First Grade finished in fifth place and the Thirds finished sixth.

Club Head Coach Grant Anderson said that although overall Bond had experienced a successful season, with numerous highlights, the failure of Premier Grade to make the finals was still hurting.

“The senior players that I have spoken to so far are really keen to be back next year,” he said.

“The feeling is that they let themselves down. They had high expectations and they could not meet those expectation on the field this year because of a number of reasons.

“They already have a catch-cry – ‘Redemption 2022’. They are certainly looking for redemption and they have already committed to return for it.”

There is no doubt there were crucial games First Grade let slip. Although Anderson and his squad are not seeking excuses, the club’s injury toll had a marked impact on their performance.

First Grade used 49 players this year as they scrambled to fill holes left by an unprecedented number of injuries.

“The injury toll was the major disappointment for me in 2021,” said Anderson. “We ran-on 49 players in First Grade. That is unheard of. In all my years of playing and coaching I have never seen a number close to that. And, of course, that toll affects all grades as players are brought up to fill gaps.

“We knew we had the premier squad to compete in this competition. But the injuries put a major strain on everything – combinations, depth.

“It was frustrating. Very frustrating.

“As a head coach you look to see if we have done anything wrong that may have contributed to that injury toll. I have spoken at length to the medical staff, but it was just bad luck. For example, we had a spate of hand injuries that put players out.

“If we’d had a run of hamstring injuries, then you would have questioned our preparation, but there was nothing like that - concussion, hand, knees - just unlucky injuries.

“There was really nothing in our control that I feel we could have done a lot better that would have reduced that injury number.

“Despite those injuries First Grade was in the top four for 15 consecutive weeks. That has never happened before in the club’s history.”

Anderson stresses that the First Grade disappointment does not detract from a season of exceptional highs, including:

• A record number of players registered for Bond University Rugby Club in 2021;

• Winning the Aon Women’s Uni 7s Series for the first time;

• A record four teams in the finals;

• Bond’s Maddison Levi was selected in the Australian Women’s 7s team for the Tokyo Olympics;

• Nine Bull Sharks women were selected in the Reds Super W squad - Lucy Lockhart (vice captain), Aleena Greenhalgh, Caity Costello, Carola Kreis, Diaz Seumanutafa, Emily Bass, Madi Schuck, Mel Wilks and Sophie Holyman;

• Lucy Lockhart, Aleena Greenhalgh and Mel Weeks have been named in a 40-player Wallaroos Players of Interest (PONI) squad;

• Angus Blyth, Zane Nonggorr and Alex Mafi all wore Reds colours as the Queensland team went on to win the Super Rugby AU title with a come-from-behind 19-16 win over the Brumbies. Meanwhile, Bond University John Eales Scholarship recipient, Jack Winchester, headed west early in the year after being signed by the Western Force. The talented hooker returned to Bond late in the season;

• Zane Nonggorr, Wilson Blyth and George Blake were selected in the Junior Wallabies (Under 20s) squad;

• The appointment of Jai Johnson as Third Grade coach has led to stronger association with the local Gold Coast competition;

• The club’s third grade, in just its second season, is proving to be a major success story for the club;

• The club’s women’s program, under coaches Lawrence Faifua and Setu Naseri, continues on its meteoric rise, not only in the 7s and First Grade, but also in the support of a local team in the Queensland sub-districts competition.

“That is an outstanding catalogue of achievements for a young club of our size,” said Anderson. “The fact that we had four of six teams in the finals can’t be downplayed. That is a percentage that would be the envy of every other club.”

Anderson said plans for 2022 were already advanced, with some specific goals already tabled.

“We want to be a successful club and have all of our teams play finals footy next year,” he said. “Out of that if we can get a senior team, a Colts team and a women’s team in the grand finals, then that will be a very successful year. That will be massive.

“To do that we need to recruit in targeted areas. We have the makings of a very good football club, but we are just light in a few areas.

“For example we need more size in our women’s tight five and in the Colts we need a playmaker-type. In the senior grade we are looking to recruit strongly in the positions where we struggled this year. We need a big outside back in the back three.

“We are also working hard around our retention because we want all of this year’s players to return.

“We have an exceptional coaching staff and we do work in closely as a club, but I would like to see even more consistency across all our coaching and around the language we use right through the club.

“We are looking at a pre-season plan with all teams training together and utilizing the experience of the coaching staff that we have across all teams.

“I would like to get a real roadmap around what Bond Rugby is and transfer that through the club.

“That flows across into the area of club culture. I think we are still trying to find our own identity. We have made some big steps, but we still have a way to go in cementing down what it means to be a Bond rugby player and the expectations, which come from within the playing group.

“We should be justifiably proud of our achievements in 2021. The platform is so much stronger now, so that we can say with confidence that we can and will do better in 2022.”