A try celebration during Bond’s 36-14 win over Easts in Round Two. PICTURE: Cavan Flynn
The revolving door to Grant Anderson’s selection room keeps spinning leading into Saturday’s Bull Sharks First Grade clash away against Easts.
The Bond University rugby head coach welcomes back into the First Grade side representative trio, prop George Blake (has been out with a hamstring injury), hooker Jack Winchester (returning from duties with the Western Force) and lock Angus Blyth (back from the Reds).
However, exiting are form Number Eight, Nixon Tarami (leg bruising) and points machine, winger Jack Finigan, who is out for the remainder of the season with an ACL injury.
“This has been the story of our season so far,” said Anderson.
“With injuries and rep selection we have used 45 players in nine games this season. It has been a major test of our depth. But the way the players have reacted is a testament to this club.
“Injuries have not been an excuse. Whoever has been selected has been expected to honour the jersey. And that has definitely been the case.”
Anderson said his focus is solely on his team after a ‘sensational’ week on the training paddock, however he could be excused for a cursory glimpse at the Tigers’ scenario.
Both teams are coming off Round 10 wins – Bond 32-21 over Norths and Easts 39-7 over Sunnybank. The Bull Sharks are currently third on the ladder (29 points - five wins, three losses and one draw), nine points adrift of second-placed GPS (38), while unbeaten UQ sit atop the competition on 45 points.
Bond accounted for the Tigers 36-14 at The Canal in their Round Two clash in mid-April.
Easts are back in eighth position (15 points – two wins, seven losses) in the nine-team comp, however, they are the reigning Allsports Physiotherapy Hospital Challenge Cup premiers.
Anderson declined to suggest why the rugby powerhouse has struggled this year, but the wounded Tigers pose a massive threat.
Opposition teams are wary of the hostile atmosphere at CP Bottomley Park. They also welcome back three Reds players – backrowers Liam Wright and Seru Uru and hooker Richie Asiata.
Anderson will be keen for his Bull Sharks to continue an improved defensive effort after they leaked a total of 94 points in a draw and a loss in rounds eight and nine.
“We had a really close look at why our defence had failed in those two games,” he said.
“There didn’t appear to be an issue around the actual tackle, but more in the energy and willingness of our defence. However, we have focused on that area of our game. There was a big improvement last week and I expect that improvement to continue on Saturday and the following week against Sunnybank at The Canal.”
The Bull Sharks then have a bye and Anderson had targeted the three games leading into the week off as crucial.
“We hope to have players gradually coming back from injury and we want improvement on the paddock and on the points ladder,” he said.
There will be a must-see ‘curtain-raiser’ to the First Grade clash - the opening round showdown between the Queensland Reds and the NSW Waratahs in the Super W competition.
Bond boasts nine players in the Reds squad: Aleena Greenhalgh, Caity Costello, Carola Kreis, Diaz Seumanutafa, Emily Bass, Lucy Lockhart, Madi Schuck, Mel Wilks and Sophie Holyman.
All except for Costello (knee injury) are expected to feature in the Round One clash.
Those selections speak highly of the women’s program at Bond, but they also make the task much tougher for the Bull Sharks Premier Women’s team to get over top of Easts on Saturday.
The Tigers sit on top of the ladder with Bond just four points behind in fourth place in a tightly contested leadership battle. However, the Bull Sharks women are on a five-match winning streak and will certainly look to make a statement on Saturday.
The Easts women are the reigning First Grade premiers and are smarting after their undefeated season came to an inglorious halt, smashed 53-0 by Sunnybank last weekend.
Head of Bond’s women’s rugby program Setu Naseri said he and 15-a-side women’s coach Lawrence Faifua were very wary of which Tigers’ team would run out on Saturday.
“It is a closely packed points table at the moment and we certainly want to make some significant inroads between now and the finals,” Naseri said.
“We have a lot of players on rep duties, but also have a lot of depth in this club.”
The Bull Sharks Men’s Second Grade will also be seeking to consolidate their second place on the ladder, coming off four straight wins against an Easts team, who are back in sixth place.
Meanwhile Third Grade (6th) are determined to make some ground on the fourth-placed Tigers.
The Colts 1 competition is compelling, with Easts the ladder leaders on 38 points and then three teams, including Bond, on 36 points.
Bond accounted for the Tigers 15-12 in Round Two and are coming off a win over Norths last round.
Colts 2 face a tough assignment. They are currently in seventh place (16 points), well adrift of second-placed Easts (36 points).