Bond Men’s First Grade forward Connor Pritchard has been one of the Bull Sharks best in 2021. PICTURE: Stephen Tremain
By Pat McLeod
Bull Sharks’ international breakaway Connor Pritchard has pinpointed ‘belief’ as the key element that can take the Bond Premier division men’s rugby team through to an inaugural premiership in 2021.
Pritchard, 24, a former Zimbabwean representative in both 15s and 7s rugby union, has been a standout performer for the Bull Sharks this season and is adamant a late season slump can be reversed.
“I believe we are good enough to win the ultimate prize this year,” he said.
“We just need to believe in each other and that is the hard thing right now. We have gone through quite a few losses and we are starting to doubt – ‘are we good enough?’ But, deep down, I believe, each of us does believe we are good enough.
“These are testing times. But champions get through the testing times.”
Bond’s finals hopes, with two rounds remaining, are on a knife’s edge.
They are in fifth place on 37 points and play Brothers on Saturday at The Canal, who are fourth on 44 points.
Bond play seventh-placed Souths away in the last round, while Brothers play GPS (second).
So, if Bond can win these final two matches and Brothers lose to Jeeps, and bonus points fall the Bull Sharks’ way … they are in the finals.
However, Pritchard, who is studying his Master of City Planning at Bond, is not looking past hurdle one – Brothers.
“Of course this is a crucial game,” he says. “High stakes, with both teams playing for a finals berth.
“We had a good taste of finals last year, the first time Bond had made the finals (since they joined the Allsports Physiotherapy Hospital Challenge Cup in 2014).
“Our boys really enjoyed that. So, there is a lot of motivation to not only make the finals, but go on and win the whole thing.
“We have had plenty of injury issues this year and with people going out and coming into the side our combinations have suffered. But there are no excuses. Rugby is a tough game. Injuries will always be part of it.”
Pritchard said three Bull Sharks’ players will play a key role in setting up a victory platform this Saturday.
“Definitely we need Tasi (powerhouse centre Tautalatasi Tasi) to do his thing with ball carrying,” he said.
“Obviously Joey (attacking whiz, outside back Joey Fittock). If we can get him the ball and he has his jet shoes on, anything is possible.
“And we will also look to (hooker) Nick Turner. He has a lot of experience. His leadership is so important, especially in their 22 and at the lineout because we have such an effective rolling maul.
“We need him to just bring on that leadership, calm the boys down and remind us what our jobs are.
“If we get those three players playing at their top, I don’t see why we can’t beat Brothers.”
Fortunately for Bond injured troops are returning to the run-on side. This weekend it will be halfback Liam Dillon and winger Jordan Kahu.
“We are lucky to have two of the best halfbacks in the competition in Liam and Spencer Jeans, who has been playing very well while Liam was injured,” said Head Coach Grant Anderson.
“To have them both fully fit for this game is a big plus.
“This is a grand final for us. Lose and there is no tomorrow. But that is what we faced for three weeks in a row last year. So, this is nothing new.
“Training this week was very good. Lots of energy and accuracy. We just need to focus and get back to the basics, our core skills.
“Yes, belief is massive, but there is a lot of confidence within this team. Brothers are playing well. They are a very proud, historic club.
“We are a relatively new club. We are building our history and we are up for this challenge.”
From the Colts 2 game, starting at 9.30am, through to Women’s First Grade at 5.10pm, each of the Bond teams has a finals agenda.
The Premier Women have booked their finals place. They are fourth on 54 points, well ahead of fifth-placed Souths (35). Saturday’s opponents, Brothers, are at the bottom of the table.
Bond Men’s Second Grade are in second spot (45), but must keep winning, with a cluster of teams just behind them, including Brothers (44).
Bull Sharks Third Grade are in sixth place (28) and take on third-placed Brothers (55). Although they are the only Bond team out of the finals race, their ‘finals agenda’ is to cause as many headaches as possible in the final two rounds.
Colts 1 are in fourth place (47), just behind third-placed Brothers (50) and ahead of UQ (43), so must keep winning.
Colts 2 are in fourth place (30), just two points ahead of Wests (28), but come up against top of the table Brothers.