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Petelo rapt to be living Bond’s Third Grade culture

Bond third grade cornerstone, Drew Petelo, right, has spent plenty of time in the Premier Grade spotlight. PICTURE: Stephen Tremain


By Pat McLeod

In true Third Grade fashion, Drew Petelo will always be ready for a Premier Grade SOS call.

At 32 he is very happy to play each Saturday before lunch and to then be part of the Bond Bull Sharks’ 3pm cheer squad. But his availability for ‘any grade, any time’, is part of the Third Grade mantra that Head Coach Grant Anderson was hoping for.

“Drew is the living example of the culture we are building at this club,” says Anderson.

“Every player, every grade, is vital to this club and all play a key role. At the most successful clubs it is the lower grades that play a major role in setting the off-field culture.”

Petelo has played plenty of minutes under the main game spotlight. Born in Auckland, he began playing rugby aged six before his family moved to Brisbane when he was nine.

He debuted in Premier Grade for Sunnybank in 2009 before playing for Bond in their initial season in the Hospital Challenge Cup in 2014.

The powerhouse prop/hooker then returned to New Zealand in 2015 and played in the provincial rugby competition, the Mitre 10 Cup, before returning to Bond in 2019.

“I have played my fair share of Premier rugby and now I enjoy playing Third Grade and helping to guide the younger players to reach their potential,” says Petelo.

“There are a lot of young players at Bond and it is important to have a few older heads, some experience in every team. That is especially important when things start to get tough on-field. Sometimes that is when the younger players tend to drop off.

“That’s when the older guys need to be able to step up and say, ‘Come on. Let’s find a way’. And lead from the front. That is so important late in the game. The younger player will look across and see the ‘old guy’ still giving his all in the 70th minute and that motivates them to try harder.

“I remember when I was their age and I really looked up to the older players in the club.”

Petelo also acknowledges the important role Third Grade plays in the off-field culture at Bond. That was one of the main reasons Bond rugby club board members Terry Jackman and Bob Gordon pushed so hard for the creation of a Third Grade men’s side last year.

“We all want to win games,” says Petelo. “That’s important. But it is also important to build a good culture at a club. You have to build a strong core social group to keep everyone excited about turning up on a Saturday.

“I really enjoy playing Third Grade. I can get the lungs going early in the day and then have a few beers and watch the young guns work their magic around 3pm.

“And I am not alone. Many of our third graders want to play at a higher level … and that is great. But there are also a lot who just want to be part of a club that has great camaraderie and a lot of fun social events.

“So often it is the Third Grade players who really love to put their foot forward when it comes to those social activities, as well as cheering on first and second grade.”

Joining Petelo in the Bull Sharks Third Grade pack is his ‘little brother’, Andictor Petelo, who also plays in the front row.

“It is very special playing alongside my little brother,” he says. “I remember when he used to come and watch my games and now it is really special to have that family bond on the rugby field each Saturday.

“Last year Bond were really struggling with injuries in the front row and my brother and I would play Third Grade and then sit on the bench and come on in Second Grade and First Grade. It was common for us to play in all three games – so the beers had to wait.

“But that is what we love to do, play rugby. It is about lacing up on a Saturday and playing rugby with your mates and my little brother.”

Petelo this year has moved from the front row to the back row - ‘I’m actually now enjoying running those kilometres that I used to hate when I was heavier’. However, he has been off the field for three games with a hamstring injury.

He’s confident of being back on the field soon and like all third graders, will be ready for that SOS.

“I have to admit, I would love one last ‘hurrah’ in Premier Grade before I hang up the boots,” Petelo says.

“Of course, I am happy to retire without that. But if there are injuries and Ando (Grant Anderson) says, ‘Hey, can you sit on the bench?’, I won’t say ‘no’.”

Like all six Bull Sharks teams, the Third Grade side is back on the field this weekend in round 14, away to GPS. Bond are currently in seventh place in Third Grade on 19 points, with GPS fourth on 32 points.    

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