Bull Sharks chase a Brisvegas sevens jackpot
By Pat McLeod
BOND University Rugby Club’s escalated men’s sevens campaign faces a crucial litmus test this weekend at the Brisvegas Rugby 7s, hosted by Brisbane Premier club Wests.
Not only will this be the final hit-out for Bond’s men’s and women’s squads before the State championships at Noosa on November 13-14, but it will also be a key gauge of how the men’s combination is progressing.
Bond University’s Director of Rugby Luca Liussi recently outlined the club’s decision to add more emphasis to the men’s sevens program than in previous years, especially in the light of the Bull Sharks’ women’s stellar year.
In their three sevens tournaments since the completion of the 15-a-side season, the Bond men have taken the silverware on two occasions and have lost just the one game.
However, as men’s sevens coach Damon Virtue points out, the bar rises to a much higher level this weekend.
“We have been genuinely rapt in our performances and the trajectory to date,” Virtue said. “The Bond women had a great year and there was a big emphasis on the Aon Women’s Uni 7s Series (which Bond won).
“So, we knew there would be big dividends in a number of areas if we were strong in that space (men’s sevens).
“The benefits to team culture and the buy-in from players are just two areas. We also saw the sevens talent pool that was already at Bond waiting to be nurtured and the players who could add so much to their own skill sets in all forms of the game by focusing on sevens.
“We have already seen that happen – players taken out of their comfort zone and really excelling … big forwards who suddenly have to consistently go one-on-one with fleet-footed backs.
“Players like Jake Upfield and Nixon Taramai have certainly gained plenty from the sevens program this season and will no doubt have an even bigger impact in whatever version of the game they are playing.”
Virtue said the Bull Sharks would hold back several players from this weekend’s tournament with the inaugural state championships in sight.
“We have a few players with niggling injuries or who could do with a rest, so with the state titles the following weekend it’s a case of ‘let’s be smart’,” he said.
“Of course the benefit of that approach is that we have a long list of ‘new’ players who we want to see a bit more of - players like Ethyn Martin, who is from our colts program, is a Reds Academy player and has already had one outing with the sevens.
“Also, club newcomer Tyrrell Naleba will be included. He has relocated to the Gold Coast and played with Premier Club Easts last year and looks to be a really exciting prospect for us.
“And of course at the core of our sevens success so far this season has been captain Byron Hutchinson, Jaline Graham, Tautalatasi Tasi and Dan Boardman, who will all be campaigning again this weekend.”
The ever-cautious Virtue declined to predict another tournament win for the men this weekend, but said the weekend would be all about getting a better picture of the entire squad and developing more combinations.
“Sevens rugby can be a pretty fluid environment,” he said.
“It is very hard to stay consistent across a lot of tournaments. We are confident in that we can keep improving, this weekend and at the State championships. We are growing each week and that is what is important.
“One accolade that can go out now is to the Bond club, Luca (Liussi) and ‘Ando’ (club head coach Grant Anderson) for the support that they have given the men’s sevens program this season.”
The Bull Sharks elite women’s sevens squad is looking to feature in the finals this weekend after a lack of podium finishes in recent weeks.
The squad has been forced to trial new combinations with several players missing through injury or unavailability. Two fitting in the latter category this weekend will be sister sensations Maddison and Teagan Levi, who have started their contracts with the Australian women’s sevens squad in Sydney.