Bond’s Premier Grade tight five boast an average age of 20. PICTURE: Stephen Tremain
By Pat McLeod
Grant Anderson’s ‘Baby Bondies’ take one crucial weapon into Saturday’s Premier Grade clash with an aggressive GPS pack – they don’t know fear.
Through injury and circumstance the Bond Rugby Club’s head coach will march out a tight five squad at GPS for the crucial Round 14 clash that boasts an average age of 20.
The long-term Brisbane competition veteran knows what they are up against.
“Any time you go to GPS you know you are facing a real tough, physical battle,” he said.
“GPS pride themselves in their physicality around their forward pack. They are big and talented. Players like Matt Gicquel at seven and Ratu Batibasaga, who they rely on to get them over the game line, as well as their captain Michael Richards.
“We focused on our physicality this week at training. We know that if we can negate that, then we put ourselves in a position to do well.”
But instead of clutching for the worry beads, Anderson harbours no doubt about what his young tight five can achieve.
“Our blokes are young, but they are also incredibly talented,” he said.
“What is really good about each one of them is that they play without fear. They just love playing rugby. They go out, every game and just rip in.
“It is also a generational thing. They don’t care what anybody else thinks. They don’t give a rats that some might think they are not up to it. They just do it.”
Anderson’s thoughts are mirrored by national selectors. All of his tight five are current or recent Junior Wallabies.
Props Zane Nonggorr and George Blake are current Junior Wallabies, as is Number 5 Wilson Blyth. Hooker Jack Winchester is a 2020 Junior Wallaby and prop Egan Siggs earned a similar honour in 2018 (at 22 he is the ‘veteran’ in the middle).
And there is one more surprise addition to the above ranks. Eastwood (Sydney) and Melbourne Rebels contracted player, lock Josh Canham, will wear Bond colours on Saturday.
Canham was on the Gold Coast as part of the recent Junior Wallabies camp, but when Covid struck and the camp disbanded he decided to stay here rather than go back to the Sydney lockdown.
“It is a short-term arrangement that has been brought about by our serious injury issues,” said Anderson.
“Eastwood have released Josh because he and the club are keen for him to get as much rugby as possible. For us it is purely an injury decision. We have run out of locks. If he doesn’t play then I have to fabricate someone else for that position.
“I wrestled with the decision to select him. As a coach I am trying to build a culture here and the idea of having him involved straight into first grade isn’t in line with what we have been doing.
“But I spoke to the leadership group and to the players and they were all really supportive of him playing.”
Despite injuries and the youth at the centre of his pack Anderson goes into Saturday’s clash with plenty of belief.
“The youth in the pack is balanced by the experience in our back row – players like Dylan Rowe, Connor Pritchard and Declan Dinnen – all experienced, quality performers,” he said.
“So, we have a tight five average age of 20 and a back row with an average age of 30.”
But it is in the backline where the Bull Sharks arguably face their biggest test. They have five players injured who would most likely walk straight back in.
“The players know that. They know the injury toll,” he says.
“And of course they want those players back because they know that would give us an even greater winning chance.
“But there is no negativity. It is a case of ‘OK, it is what it is, let’s just get on with it and support and respect the players who are coming in and support them’.
“You can’t ask for anything more than that.
“This is a mentally strong squad. They never give up, they always compete. There is a real desire to do well and they never back down.”
A big plus for Bond is the return of powerhouse centre Tautalatasi Tasi, who Anderson rates as the best number 12 in the Allsports Physiotherapy Hospital Challenge Cup.
With the 18-round competition now entering the sprint to the finish line, a win is vital for every grade. Bond First grade are currently in third place (35 points) with GPS in second (52 points), having suffered just the one loss, to UQ, this season.
Wests are fourth (34 points) and Brothers fifth (33).
Bond’s Premier Women are in fourth place and face off against top-of-the-table GPS.
Men’s Second Grade are third (35 points), amid a cluster of teams that include GPS (second, also on 35 points).
Bull Sharks Third Grade are seventh (19 points), with GPS fourth (32 points).
Bond Colts 1 are fourth (equal on 41 points with third-placed Brothers), while GPS are second (47 points).
And Colts 2 are seventh (16 points), in striking distance of fifth-placed GPS (21 points).