After almost four months away from their beloved club, the imminent return to play is an enormous positive for everyone in the Sunnybank Rugby community.
With a huge number of teams in men’s, women’s and colts competitions, the club is a hub for the community, and has been sorely missed over the past few months.
New head coach Sione Fukofuka said the chance to reconnect is something the entire club has been looking forward to immensely.
“It’s a very family orientated club, just like across all of Brisbane’s clubs,” Fukofuka said.
“Boys and girls are just happy to be back out there with their teammates and doing something fun and enjoyable, it’s a massive thing in terms of connection and just seeing smiling faces around the club.
“The boys are really going to appreciate what it means to them and why it’s important in their lives and that’s the case all the way through the colts and the women at Sunnybank.
“Everyone’s really excited to play and get back out there, but also to reconnect with the community.”
On the field, the Dragons have been able to pick up a number of players from overseas, with scrumhalf Tim Sippel making his way back to the Bank from Canada, while Wasps lock Josh Fenner has returned from the UK to bolster the squad.
Fukofuka’s side has also been strengthened by the return of Liam McNamara, who was facing a lengthy stint on the sidelines pre-COVID.
After a standout season for the Bankers which included a call-up to the St.George Queensland Reds bench, McNamara was chosen for Brisbane City in the National Rugby Championship, before seriously injuring his knee in the first match of their campaign.
The break has provided the chance for the livewire fullback to complete his rehabilitation, and he will line up for the side come Round 1.
McNamara will form a key part of the backline alongside stars Hayden Sargeant and Tom Lucas, who both led the squad in terms of fitness over the break, while the entire group ensured they stayed connected over social media during isolation.
“Tom Lucas, who has played Sevens for Australia and Hayden Sargeant - their professionalism in terms of their preparation has been impressive,” Fukofuka said.
“We tracked reasonably well as a whole, the boys were pretty honest with their testing scores after we set out the testing parameters and credit to them, they came back in pretty good condition and we’re pretty happy with where we’re at.
“We set some themes, they had to complete their sessions in old-school jerseys, NBA singlets and had a bit of fun through that.
“Zoom has probably had its stocks soar because we spent a lot of time in Zoom meetings.
“We used social media, our WhatsApp and Facebook groups, to stay in touch and we set some challenges, physical ones, but also some content learning through that time too.”
With a shortened season, starting well will be key for Sunnybank as they aim to break back into the Hospital Cup top four.
“You say it every year in a normal competition, every game is important, but the stakes are massive this year, especially early on where you can set a foundation and build some momentum,” Fukufoka said.
“The beauty of it is that you only have to play each team once right through, and if we’re lucky enough to get to finals we’ll re-evaluate, so you just have to do enough every week.
“We want to play well, we want to represent the club and play a brand of football that’s exciting to watch and be successful, but in reality if we get a result by one point, three points or 15 points, it doesn’t matter because you move onto the next week.”