The Melbourne Unicorns and Melbourne University will make history on Saturday 1 May, hosting the first ever community rugby Pride Cup.
The Melbourne Unicorns are yet to their straps despite sitting undefeated this season, coming off a clinical 21-13 victory of Moorabbin.
While Melbourne University will be searching for their first win of the year, after suffering a 17-27 defeated to Harlequins in round two.
We caught up with both sides before their Round 3 blockbuster to hear their thoughts on their sides preparations and what they believe the opposition will bring game day.
Melbourne Unicorns player Matt Ritani
How was your first pre-season with the Melbourne Unicorns?
Our pre-season was good. Blake, our Strength and Conditioning Coach, really put the boys through some hard work, and we built into our pre-season matches at a steady pace, so we didn’t overload the boys Having the Gold Coast trip definitely helped get the boys build that team spirit and enjoy a good trip. That has all definitely helped to get us started for this season.
What have you loved most about the return of rugby this season?
Just that community spirit and seeing everyone come back and playing the sport they are passionate about. From juniors to seniors, people live for rugby and people love to play it – so it has been great to see the community getting amongst it.
The Unicorns sit undefeated after two rounds, how do you feel your side has performed so far this season?
As a team we probably haven’t played as good as we can and there’s definitely a lot to work on. We’ve got a lot left to give and it’s going to be exciting for us to build into those later rounds of the season where we are really going to be at our peak.
The Unicorns defeated Moorabbin last week, what did you take away from that clash?
We can definitely work on our set-piece. We probably didn’t play the way we wanted to and fell into their hands. The game conditions didn’t help, so we didn’t get flowing as well as we wanted to. But there is definitely parts of the game that we’ve learnt from and have put into training this week.
What players have impressed you so far this season?
Our captain, Maciu, is definitely a player the boy’s respect. He keeps everyone grounded and leads the boys by example. He is one that stands out to me. Then a lot of our backs; we have some guns out there. It’s exciting to see them play when we get the ball out wide.
What do you think Melbourne University will bring to the match-up?
There is now a rivalry between the two teams; we’ve got a lot of players who have been in their squad in previous years and vice versa. It will be a big encounter for us and one that we want to dominate and walk away with the points. We just have to match what they bring, absorb it, and play our game and the way we want to play.
What does it mean for your club to host the inaugural Pride Cup match?
It’s pretty big for us. It just shows how inclusive this club is and having the Melbourne Chargers there as part of the Unicorns community just goes to show how rugby is a sport for everyone and we are a club for everyone. It’s a big day for the club and one we are really excited for.
Melbourne University First XV Head Coach Tom Lucas
How did your pre-season preparations come along?
I’d say pretty well. We’ve been going since October last year due to Covid. So the boys were very keen to get out of their home and onto the grass. Like a lot of clubs, it’s going to be interesting to see how we go for numbers and depth this season. I’m expecting we’ll have a few more injuries than normal. It’s just about having the depth there to support that.
How did your team perform in the trial matches?
A mixed bag. We were hurt a bit by numbers. We had our guys backing up for a few games. I’m overall pretty happy with our preparation.
Any new recruits we should look out for this weekend?
We have a new Argentinian half-back called Juan Sixto. He is your archetypical pest – so look for him to be well and truly in the mix.
Which players do you expect to fire for your team?
I have quite a young team. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of my boys grow. Hopefully, there is a few surprises coming out of our team this year.
Besides your own club, who is the biggest contender for the Premiership title in 2021?
I think the traditionally strong clubs will remain so. Box Hill, Harlequins, Melbourne Unicorns. I actually really like the look of Endeavour Hills this year. A lot of their older players have gravitated back to the club, so I think they’ll be very strong.
What do you love most about the return of rugby this year?
Everything. Just getting back on the park and in training with the boys has been fantastic. I’m looking forward to actually getting a season in this year and seeing how we go.
What does it mean for the club to be playing in the inaugural Pride Cup Match?
It’s one of the great things about rugby; just how inclusive it is. I was actually very lucky in the tail end of my career to go on a rugby trip with the Chargers, Melbourne’s inclusive rugby team. I think it is fantastic recognition of the diversity in our sport and it will be fantastic for our game.
Pride Cup kick-off times: 11:30am Melbourne Chargers v Cerberus, 1pm Pride Cup Presentation by Ellia Green OAM followed by keynote speaker and presentation, 1:30pm Lindroth Cup – Melbourne Unicorns v Melbourne University, 3:15pm Dewar Shield – Melbourne Unicorns v Melbourne University.