In 2014 the Bond Pirates finished the Gold Coast Districts Rugby Union (GCDRU) season hanging by a thread as a club. A lack of numbers saw them without a third grade side for the first time ever. In first grade the team had not registered a single win, taking out their second consecutive wooden spoon whilst their second grade finished the season with just two wins to also be planted at the bottom of the ladder. Once one of the toughest opponents in the GCDRU competition, many were now questioning if the club would survive another season.
Despite their lack of success on the field, club spirit remained high. Week in week out, the players turned up to training motivated to change the course of their season, while many players played two games on a Saturday to ensure that the Pirates didn’t forfeit a single game.
Club President, Col Johnson, and a number of fellow dedicated club officials held a rugby 7s competition over the off-season with the hope of keeping the players interested in the club. Col and the other club officials were hopeful it would help retain some of the existing players.
“After seasons of losing players we were just hoping we could consolidate the small playing group that we did have. There were no aims for finals, just trying to ensure as many players were enjoying being around the club as we possibly could” Col said at the time.
Combined with a large chunk of 2014 players returning, strong recruitment both locally and abroad as well as a number of former players returning to the club, the Pirates came into the 2015 season confident their ship would be righted. There were no illusions though. The club was well aware there was a long way for them to climb before they would ever be taken seriously again. Opening their season with a win meant that after one round the club had already been more successful than their entire 2014 season.
After five games the Pirates were sitting at two wins and three losses. Already two wins ahead of 2014 it would have been easy to get complacent. Signs were promising and hope began to return. There was concerns, though, that a new member of the coaching staff had helped improve results, but was leaving a number of players dissatisfied. After seeing previous drops in playing numbers due to player unrest the club acted swiftly and chose to part ways and make adjustments to the coaching team.
Many could be forgiven for thinking that the Pirates chances of being finals contenders was over at this point. Whilst the team lost their next game, they quickly steadied to embark on a five game winning streak, pushing them well into finals contention and showing a great deal of character along the way.
The hard work was not confined to the first grade team though. Second Grade had developed into genuine finals contenders whilst third grade recorded some great wins after a year of exile. The senior and junior club forged stronger ties which lead to junior games being played as curtain raisers to first grade and senior players supporting the junior grades. The club also held it’s first Old Boys weekend which was a massive success, seeing many former players travelling from far and wide to attend.
The Pirates went into the last round of the regular season with their destiny not completely in their own hands. Two consecutive losses saw them needing to win their final game, and also relying on the results of another game to go their way. The Pirates did what was required of them defeating the Palm Beach Currumbin Alleygators 54-7. Fortunately for them, the Helensvale Hogs also defeated the Colleges Knights to enable the Pirates to secure fourth place and their first finals berth in first grade since 2009.
Indicating how far the team and the club had come, the GCDRU awards night was dominated by the Pirates. Coach Lincoln Matahaere won coach of the year, Pirates junior Michael Burke picked up equal best back, new recruit and captain Tai Ford won Forward of the year, whilst English import Greg Bannister took out the leading point scorer and MVP awards.
The next day, the Minor Semi Final pitted the Pirates against the very team that helped secure their finals place, the Helensvale Hogs. With Helensvale being 2014 Grand Finalists and 2015 Club Champions it was always going to be a difficult prospect.
After the unbelievable improvement from the 2014 season many would have felt that making it this far was an achievement in itself and everybody involved with the club could have held their heads high to end the season in the first grade finals for the first time for 6 years. A testament to how well coached the team was, they put together one of their most complete performances of the season to defeat the Hogs 23-6 and advance to the Major Semi Final to face minor premiers Surfers Paradise.
The season had been built on their well drilled forward pack, coached by Darrell Burchnall, they had boasted a strong set piece all season and had been the strength of their team. Now into the business end of the season it was the backline coached by Lincoln and Sam Raper that really showed their class taking their game to another level to complement their clinical forward pack.
The Grand Final of the GCDRU season will take place this Saturday at Glennon Park, Nerang with the Pirates taking on the Gold Coast Eagles in the first grade GF, kicking off at 3pm.