Wallaby genes running rich in Sevens

Sun, 28/02/2021, 09:00 pm
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Battle of the Border Sevens win for NSW...(from left) Connor Bond, Edie Burke and Max Jorgensen | Photo: Brendan Hertel

The rich rugby genes of four former Wallabies flowed through an upbeat NSW v Queensland sevens 'Battle of the Border' in Brisbane on Sunday.

World Cup-winner Matt Burke, former flyer Graeme Bond and Peter Jorgensen, a side-stepper deluxe in the early ‘90s, would be a fine back three for any backline in any era. Former Wallabies flanker Brendan Nasser only has forwards dining at his house.

They weren’t at Brisbane’s Bottomley Park playing golden oldies with their regal grey hairs but unobtrusively watching on as proud fathers.

Burke’s 16-year-old daughter Edie was in the NSW girls’ team, Bond’s speed was clearly passed on to son Connor in the NSW boys’ team and teammate Max Jorgensen moves deceptively with the same gait as his father.

Bella Nasser was all power and urgency for the Queensland women's team.

NSW won all eight skirmishes at youth level in boys and girls competition with Queensland’s GPS schools again drearily fencing off their players from being involved.

The women’s sevens side split their four-game series two wins apiece in the Battle of the Border Sevens.

Bond was a Super Rugby winger and winner with the champion 2001 ACT Brumbies side which catapulted him to five Test caps the same year.

Even in his pomp he would not have run down son Connor in a sprint. 

Young Connor Bond is just 17 and his eye-popping speed and sinewy leg drive to shed tacklers was a feature of a day much needed by game-starved sevens players.

He runs a slick 10.85 sec as his best over 100m and won the 200m title for 17-year-olds at the NSW All Schools Athletics Championships at Homebush last December.

He transfers those winged heels to rugby.

The King’s School speedster was superb in the 31-5 win in Round Three. He scored from 65m out, not on the edge but by bumping through two tacklers in midfield, sustaining his pace and scooting clear.

His second try included two sharp changes of pace that simply burnt the cover defence much to the excitement of young fan Darcy Davis, 6, near the Tiger Burger caravan.

“I’m stoked just to get this chance playing for NSW in my first-ever carnival like this,” young Bond said.

“It was really fun and some game practice to take into the school season.”

It’s wonderful to hear of dreams budding afresh in the Bond household.

“Dad’s very humble. He almost talks about what he did in rugby as if he was spectator because he’s not one who likes the spotlight,” Bond said.

“My dream is to represent Australia at something...on the track or at rugby.”

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With the NSW Waratahs’ woes at Super Rugby AU level, it was reassuring to see the impressive talent in sky blue jerseys in this wave of sevens youngsters.

Even Burke senior did a double take watching the multi-skilled Jorgensen because his efficient, balanced, low knee-lift running is so like the telling moves of his father who played two Tests against Scotland in 1992.

It’s an easy, skating, weight-shifting style and propelled him 60m for one quick tap opportunist try.

He’s only 16 in Year 11 at St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill and has found his zeal for rugby after a fling with rugby league.

Henry O’Donnell’s strapping presence, the three sidesteps inside that thrust Ezra Gosche to the tryline, Jed Walsh shedding two tackles to score...there were highlight moments everywhere for the bigger, sharper NSW boys.

Burke’s legacy in rugby is entrenched as fullback in the 1999 World Cup-winning Wallabies and from any number of other silky showings in his 81 Tests (1993-2004).

His pigtailed daughter, from Sydney’s Barker College, relished her chance at sevens at the higher level.

For Australia’s 2016 Olympic sevens gold medallist Evania Pelite, the day was everything that was missing when she first took up rugby sevens.

 

“It’s great to see gaps being filled in the pathway for women’s sevens,” Pelite said.

“I went to a Try Sevens day and went back to my school at St Columban’s College (Caboolture) to raise a team.

“There was a little hesitance to start with but I scouted some girls in the lunch break, bribed a few with a day off school and we got 10-to-12 for a team.

“To see now that rugby sevens for women can potentially take you to the 2032 Olympics in my home city of Brisbane is really exciting.

“I’m not going to be around to play but it’s great to see aspiring girls at days like this who will have to be ready to do everything it takes to get to an Olympics.”

There were girls in action on Sunday with that potential. Tall Tiana Rafstrand-Smith, who has finished Year 12 at Keebra Park State High, was a standout at just 17 with both power and speed for the Queensland women’s team.

When she dropped a routine pass, she made amends with one of the biggest tackles of the day. Remember that name.

Teammate Teagan Levi was all hustle. A dummy and sharp speed on the outside produced one excellent 50m try and her option-taking seemed to improve in just four games.

Pelite, Charlotte Caslick, Emilee Cherry and Australia’s other top female players are sweating on some meaningful competition being hatched.

If an Oceania competition pencilled in for Sydney in May goes ahead, it will be invaluable tuning against New Zealand and Fiji before the Tokyo Olympics.

Australian men’s sevens coach Tim Walsh is watching closely the progress of sevens stars Tim Anstee (Western Force), Lachie Anderson (Melbourne Rebels) and co in Super Rugby AU.

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