Bull Sharks captain Byron Hutchinson was an inspirational leader across the weekend at Noosa. PICTURE: CAVAN FLYNN
By Pat McLeod
The cheering had long finished, as had the backslapping, and the presentation pics were already circulating across digital platforms before Luca Liussi fully understood Bond University Rugby’s most significant achievement at last weekend’s Queensland State Sevens Championships at Noosa.
The Bull Sharks men had won gold and the women had stared down adversity to post their best recent performance in finishing fourth.
So, plenty to celebrate.
But it was only when the hours passed and the carpark thinned that Liussi, Bond University’s Director of Rugby, had his ‘lump in the throat’ moment.
“We were still at the Noosa rugby club, having a few beers and cleaning up,” he explains.
“Our men’s team leaders were picking up cans, sweeping the bar area and also making sure they got to the carnival organisers and thanked them for their hard work across the weekend.
“They weren’t doing that because we won. That’s just what we do. Our trademark of an ‘Unbreakable Bond’ includes being grateful. Cleaning up and thanking the hosts is just what we do at the end of each carnival. We never make a big deal about it. We just do it.
“So, as they were finishing up, a lady came up to me. She had tears in her eyes and her voice was croaky. The lady was Canadian and didn’t follow rugby. She was a guest of someone from the Noosa Rugby Club and explained how impressed she was with the Bond University Club and had to come and tell me that she has never seen a team of men and women interact so well and with such respect for each other and to see the team cleaning up with brooms, etc, was incredible.
“That was a very nice to hear, but numerous times across the weekend I had been given similar accolades around how our players and staff had performed on and off the field.
“Rugby icon, dual international and long-time former Australian Sevens coach Michael O’Connor was on the sidelines and told myself and ‘Ando’ (Bond rugby head coach Grant Anderson) how impressed he was with the way Bond played over the weekend, describing the men’s performances as ‘very smart footy’.
“Our leaders, such as men’s sevens coach Damon Virtue and women’s counterpart Cameron Pither, are largely responsible for behaviours on and off the field, but the accolades from last weekend need to be shared by all Bull Sharks players and staff involved.
“We put in a lot of work to ensure the Bond brand is something to be proud of and that certainly was the case last weekend.”
For Virtue, the tournament was the culmination of precision planning.
Following a 15-a-side season that fell short of expectations, Virtue pushed hard for an increased emphasis on the Bull Sharks’ men’s sevens program. The club agreed and the outcomes have been impressive.
State championship victory at Noosa was the cherry on top, but across five tournaments the Bull Sharks men lost just two games.
“The squad has worked hard and that commitment reaped the rewards last weekend,” Virtue said.
“There are so many positives from what the club has done in recent weeks. These positives will flow on to the 15-a-side program – things like upgraded skills, combinations, conditioning.”
Except for skipper, Byron Hutchinson, Virtue refused to single out one player from last weekend.
“The captain led very well, but every player was responsible for the great outcome. They played for each other.”
The Bull Sharks’ men’s results from last weekend’s Queensland State Sevens Championships:
Round 1: Bond 40 v Sunshine Coast 12; Round 2: Bond 26 v GPS 12; Round 3: Bond 34 v UQ 0; Round 4: BYE; Round 5: Bond 41 v Brothers 0; Grand Final: Bond 31 v Easts 5.
Bond women’s sevens coach Cameron Pither was just as rapt in his squad’s performance. The Bull Sharks came into the tournament with at least eight front line players injured or unavailable for the 13-person squad.
“Despite that our girls gave their best performance of recent tournaments,” he said.
“They have kept improving from each training session through each tournament. There is so much potential in this squad. My only frustration was the lack of time we have had together.”
Compounding Pither’s injury headache was the fact that the squad also lost Grace Baker and Shae De la Cruz to the casualty list across the weekend.
“What was really impressive was how the girls reacted to the tough times,” said Pither.
“Some had to play whole games. Others, like Akira Crocker and Jemma Bemrose, played on through injury.
“Everyone played their part, but the experience of Caity Costello and Mel Wilks certainly shone through. Some of the squad, such as Paigey Nikora and Akira, are still very young – so a lot to look forward to.”
The Bond women’s results from last weekend’s Queensland State Sevens Championships:
Round 1: Bond 41 v Sunshine Coast 0; Round 2: Bond 10 v Sunnybank 17; Round 3: Bond 31 v Wests 5; Round 4: BYE; Round 5: Bond 47 v Brothers 0; 3rd v 4th Play off: Bond 7 v UQ 29.
The Bond University Rugby focus now returns to the 15-a-side version with all clubs involved in strength training from next week.