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Gear change speeds up Colts' development

Bull Sharks Rugby - Colts Coaches

It’s a new era of Colts rugby at Bond University. 

The arrival of All Blacks legend Rico Gear as head coach in 2023 kicked off a more professional coaching structure and daily training environment that has captured the attention of the Gold Coast rugby community and led to a record 86 footballers registering for the Colts in 2024. 

Gear was charged with creating a program that would put the Colts in regular premiership contention while providing the Bull Sharks’ First Grade side with a steady influx of talented young footballers.  

He works closely with new First Grade coach Mick Heenan to instil a game plan that produces readymade senior players who can slot seamlessly into grade football.  

The success of John Eales Rugby Excellence Scholarship recipient Harry Bell and fellow front rower Harrison Usher in round 1 was testament to that while this week against Wests Heenan will give First Grade debuts to Ieuan Cornelius and Fergus Gillan.   

Rico Gear
Bond Rugby Colts coach Rico Gear 

“It is important that we have an identifiable style as a club and Rico is a great supporter of that,” Heenan said.  

“That doesn’t mean that there’s only one approach and coaches can’t bring their own creative energy to their team, and that is a real strength of Rico’s. 

“But basic calls and general style are important because we will have players like Ieuan and Fergus moving between Colts and First Grade this year, and this helps ensure their transition is seamless because they know what to expect and how we want them to play.’’ 

Gear's future first-grader factory is stage one of a development pipeline the club hopes will produce future Queensland Reds and Wallabies. 

Another layer was added this season with the introduction of an U18s side that won Queensland Rugby’s Lightning Premiership. Thirteen high school students from the side that defeated Souths in the grand final are now regulars in Bull Sharks Colts sides.  

Bond’s Director of Rugby Luca Liussi said the former Kiwi try-scoring machine’s arrival at The Canal had been a game changer for the Bull Sharks. 

“Rico brings a lot to the table for Bond Rugby and is an excellent mentor for the young men in our Colts program,” he said. 

“The players get to learn from a very good coach with international experience as a player.” 

Bull Sharks Colts

The Brains Trust  

Gear wasted no time in bringing as much expertise as he could find into the program. Bond University Director of Sport Mike Collins, a veteran of over 200 professional games at Super Rugby’s Chiefs and for UK sides the Glasgow Warriors and London Irish, is mentoring the Colts’ scrum.   

Gear has also shown a willingness to look outside the rugby community for expertise and has enlisted AFL Legend Shaun Hart, a three-time premiership player with the Brisbane Lions and the 2001 Norm Smith medallist into the fold as a kicking coach.  

Shaun Hart
AFL legend Shaun Hart 

“We were pretty keen to get an expert kicker in,” he said. 

“We have a number of excellent boys, our kicking group is rather large and we really wanted to focus on developing this skill this season.  

“It’s awesome to have Shaun with us at training.”  

A Gear Change  

The Bull Sharks Colts train under a program that draws heavily on Gear’s experience as a player and from his various coaching roles in New Zealand schoolboy rugby. His coaching philosophy aligns perfectly with Bond University’s approach to education and student development.   

Rico Gear watching the Chiefs

“For me it’s all about building connection,” he said.   

“Grow the man, grow the player.” 

According to Liussi, the people-first approach is what makes Gear such an effective coach.  

“Rico has a deep care for the players on and off the rugby field,” he said.   

“His relationship with the playing group is built on mutual trust, care and a hard work ethic.” 

For the prototype of the type of player he hopes to build, Gear has cast his eyes back across the ditch to the numerous academies that pump out Super Rugby and All Blacks representative with impressive regularity. 

“On field is to see the attacking opportunity in every moment, it is something we are still building on and working towards, Gear said.  

“And if we do that right it will be good to watch.” 

This attacking mindset paired with the teams’ kicking skills, which are regularly practised under the expert tuition of Shaun Hart, and the pace of the speedsters out wide will create an explosive team and a constantly evolving talent pool of recruits for the Bull Sharks’ senior sides. 

Key Players:  

Harry Bell:  A key part of the leadership group who has earned high praise from Gear for his passion, energy, and leadership within the tightknit squad.  

Harry Bell
Harry Bell and Ollie Connaughton 

“Harry is the heart and soul of our side,” he said. 

“He brings a huge amount of energy and passion which is quite contagious.  

“And he does it not only on the field while doing his job but off field too.” 

Sam Howarth: The highly skilled scrum half is the on-field coach who ensures the side adheres to the game plan in the heat of battle.  

“He holds a key position in the team,” Gear said.  

“He has excellent ball control and is essentially the general who controls what the team does.” 

Fergus Gillan: An Australian U18s player and the Bull Sharks’ newest recruit is set to make his debut in round 3 against Wests. Standing at a whopping 198cm, The Southport School product brings size and athleticism to the forward pack.  

““We’re pretty excited to add his skills to the team for the rest of the season,” Gear said. 

“He’s a bit of a monster standing at 6’6 tall.” 

Colts arm in arm

If you build it, they will come   

Team manager Loic Fougere hasn’t seen such numbers in his four seasons in the role. 

Gear’s arrival for the 2023 season saw a record 73 players sign on and that has swelled again this season.  

The days of players playing half a game in Colts 2 so they can come off the bench for Colts 1 are a thing of the past. 

“We will have a fresh 23 for Colts 1 each week and this is the first time since I’ve been here that we have been in that position,” Fougere said. 

“The coaches have been very active in their recruiting and that has added to our numbers, but I think the biggest factor has been the U18s side. 

“A lot of those players enjoyed their experience with our club and have stayed on to push for selection in the Colts.’’ 

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