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TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: The Canal home to Aon Uni 7s Finale

Aon Women’s Uni 7s Series – Final: Round 2 (Bond University, May 15-16)

A compelling Aon Women’s Uni 7s Series script has been penned and Setu Naseri is hoping that his planned final exclamation mark falls into placed before the ink dries.

Naseri is coaching director of the Bond University women’s rugby program, whose elite 7s squad is hot favourites to win their first Aon national crown this Sunday at Bond’s home ground, The Canal.

But Naseri also knows there is a canyon of potential disappointment between hope and reality.

“The players are really happy that they have put themselves in the position where they potentially can win a national championship in front of family and friends and at their home club,” he said.

“You could not write a better script. But, we just have to put the exclamation mark at the end of the final chapter.”

The Bull Sharks favouritism is well earned.

They have been this year’s competition’s biggest improvers and then standout performers. Bond finished third in their first regional tournament before excelling to be undefeated in both the second regional round and then the first of the national finals tournaments on May 1-2 in Sydney.

“Yes, we have improved,” says Naseri. “Over time we have had a good hard look at where we have been and made subtle changes.

“We knew we had the fire-power. But, this has also been a long journey that started in May/June last year. There has to be an acknowledgment of just how hard the staff and players of both the 7s and 15s program have worked.

“To be where we are now says a lot about the success of Bond’s women’s rugby program.”

Naseri is acutely aware that the script isn’t finished and there are so many sub-plots still at play.

The Aon Uni 7s have been contested since 2017. Bond University and its head of sport Garry Nucifora were significant players in its formation. However, Bond has never tasted championship success. That has gone to University of Queensland (2017 and 2019) and Griffith University (2018). The competition was not held last year.

Naseri was part of Griffith’s success in 2018, so knows what it takes to be successful in this competition. He believes Bond has that formula in 2021.

“We have what it takes,” he said. “We have the people. We have the playing depth. We will be without two very good players this weekend in Faythe Manera (knee injury) and Melanie Wilks (hamstring).

“But we also have so much ability outside those two. An indication of that depth is the quality of the two people we have brought in from our 15s program - Jetaya Faifua and Zoe Hanna.

“We have strength across the board, especially in the starting seven. That depth allows us to keep punching at the back end of games.”

Leading the Bull Sharks’ charge will be regular standouts, captain Emily Bass, Caity Costello, sisters Teagan and Maddi Levi, Diaz Seumanutafa, Sophie Holyman and the returning Steph Rutherford.

There will be five other university teams contesting this weekend’s tournament – UQ, Griffith, University of Technology (Sydney), University of Newcastle and Sydney University.

On Saturday, Bond will play Sydney University, University of Newcastle and UQ. The Bull Sharks will play a further two games on Sunday before hopefully contesting the grand final.

“This is an opportunity for these players to create history – the first Bond team to win this national crown,” said Naseri.

“Individually there are also pathway opportunities with a very busy rep program towards the end of this year.

“There will be no easy games. We can’t rest on our laurels.

“But we are ready. We have belief.”

Bond University Director of Rugby Luca Liussi said the women’s 7s achievements this season were already a reason for pride, but victory this weekend would be ‘amazing’.

“Yes, it would be great to see them do well and to be holding up the cup as national champions on Sunday afternoon,” he said.

“It would be a very proud moment for the university.

“It would also focus fitting recognition on people such as Garry (Nucifora), who was so pivotal in the formation of this competition.”

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