Golden girls inspire next generation of 7s stars
More girls are taking up the sport after Australia’s Olympic success
At the start of 2013 the Australian Sevens programme made the decision to offer professional contracts to its women’s team as they set out to land an Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro.
Having seen New Zealand dominate the sevens circuit for so long, the Australian management realised they needed to recruit the most talented athletes from across the country.
All of a sudden those with a background in hockey, tennis or touch rugby were being introduced to the fast-paced game of sevens.
Three years later the Australian team arrive in Dubai as defending HSBC Sevens Series champions and having achieved their dream of winning Olympic gold.
It has been a remarkable rise and one that has been embodied by player of the year Charlotte Caslick (right).
The 21-year-old is now regarded as one of the best sevens players in the world after being identified by Australian sevens coaches back in 2012.
“My background was in touch football but now sevens is becoming a more specialised sport,” Caslick told 7DAYS. “The athletes used to come from other sports but sevens has grown so much thanks to the exposure after the Olympics.
“Now there are more grassroots projects being put in place and the amount of girls playing rugby has
GROWING THE GAME
It is a change that has been noticed by the whole of the Australian squad who, since returning from Rio have, become national heroes. Alicia Quirk was also brought into the sevens setup through touch and believes the success out in Brazil has had a huge effect on how the game is viewed in Australia. “When we first started playing we wanted to change the perception of rugby in Australia and around the world, said Quirk. “Especially given our background stories and that we hadn’t played the game.
“Now we have young girls joining, we are bringing on that next generation because of what they saw at the Olympics.”
Forward Shannon Perry has also seen a growth in the sport having herself transitioned from tennis and hockey to sevens back in 2012. “Winning the gold has put us on a pedestal and lots of girls and lot of rugby clubs are accepting female entrants,” she said.
“It has definitely opened people’s eyes and started to change society’s perception that it is more socially acceptable for women to play rugby.”
THE NEXT GENERATION
Captain Sharni Williams has witnessed this growth first-hand
45 Points scored by Caslick during the 2015/16 sevens series
having played in every leg Sevens World Series since its inception in November 2012 until injury ruled her out of the Sao Paulo Sevens in February 2016.
She made her debut in Dubai back in 2012 and has been taken aback by how far the game has come in that time.
“It’s been a blessing to see the way it’s grown,” said Williams.
“The reception we got in the hangar when we arrived home after Rio was amazing. I have met so many mums who now want to buy their daughters helmets and mouthguards and see them play. Just seeing it evolve has been great.”
Now Australia hope to continue to grow the game by enjoying more success - starting in Dubai. They are the team to beat and they plan to live up to their favourites tag.
“The slate has been wiped clean now and there is a lot of new talent out there,” said Quirk.
“But we want to make more history and dominate as New Zealand did.