World class sevens skill on show

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 20-Oct-2017

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The Australian Rugby 7s team hit the training track this week. Photo: Joel Peterson.
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AUSTRALIA’S rugby sevens side will be eyeing trans-Tasman revenge in its five-match series against world champions New Zealand in Bendigo.

The two nations kicked off their sevens series last night at Epsom Huntly Reserve, with two games to be played today and two more tomorrow.

The world’s top-two sides are gearing up for the 2017/18 world sevens series, which New Zealand claimed bragging rights in earlier this year.

But an Australian side which retains plenty of star power from its gold medal win at the 20-16 Rio Olympics, will be aiming to put a stop to the Kiwis’ run of good fortune.

The Aussies took the sporting conscious of the nation by storm at the Rio games, with the likes of Ellia Green, Charlotte Caslick, former basketballer Chloe Dalton playing starring roles.

Green’s dashing runs will be missing from the tournament in Bendigo but Caslick has made the trip, along with fellow Olympians Evania Pelite and Alicia Quirk.

Uni Sevens player of the series Emilee Cherry will be another to watch for the Aussies.

Co-captain Sharni Williams is another of the Olympians in Bendigo and says the team is looking forward to getting back into competition following a couple of months off after the World Sevens series.

“It’s high-profile competition here, the silver medallist and the gold medallist from 2016 going head to head,” 

Obviously the world series we had been head to head but we play a lot overseas so we don’t get to play at home very often.

To be able to showcase it on home soil and have the Kiwis come across to Australia and host them and show them what we are about and keep them coming back.

“We’re rivals but we’re both working to better the world series.”

With a young squad that is getting ready for this year’s world series, coach Tim Walsh is looking forward to blooding some new talent.

“New Zealand were the champions for the 2016-2017 season and set the bench mark last year. This series provides with an excellent opportunity to test ourselves as we continue our preparation for the Sevens World Series,” Walsh said.

“The players who have been selected from the Aon University Sevens Series to join our squad have all shown real promise this year.

“Taking the next step to an International Series is going to test them on a whole new level and I look forward to seeing how they respond to that.”

But despite all the Australian bravado, the Kiwis aren’t only here to make up the numbers.

They’re world champions for a reason, and they will no doubt be keen to prove it.

Though Victoria, and Bendigo, aren’t exactly rugby strongholds, Williams says from her perspective that can make series like this even better.

In the 14 months since their gold medal the profile of the sport has grown immensely, and the players themselves have made good on the opportunity to be role models.

“It’s more about, for us, instead of playing in front of a big crowd it gives us that opportunity to take our sport to people that don’t know a lot about it and maybe spark some interest,” she said.

“If there’s a young girl that comes along and then decides that this is what she wants to do, then that’s brilliant.” 

The matches will be running concurrently with the Goldfields sevens tournament, which finishes on Sunday.

Australia and New Zealand will play at 3.30pm and 6.30pm at Epsom Huntly Reserve on both Friday and Saturday and entry to all games is free.

The two teams will also hold school clinics and come and try events between the games on both days.

“Hopefully we can get plenty of people out here and really show what a great sport this is,” Williams said.

“It’s an important series for us to start a busy schedule so we’re all looking forward to getting out there against a great side.”

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