RUGBY SEVENS: The Australian women’s rugby team that is looking to continue on their history-making run has been finalised for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The side won the nation’s first Rugby Sevens World Series in dominant fashion in May and now have gold on their minds as the sport makes its Olympic debut in Rio.
Hard working forwards Sharni Williams and Shannon Parry co-captain the 12-strong side that features equal measures of skill, pace and raw talent with the likes Emilee Cherry, Charlotte Caslick and Ellia Green able to break the game open at any point.
“It’s so surreal for all of us and I don’t think it will really sink in that we’re going to be Olympians,” said Williams.
“Our goal is to go to Rio and win gold and it is something we speak about every day. The World Series win has certainly given us the confidence to achieve that goal.”
The Australian side proved they were one of the strongest the sport has ever seen over the past few months and Williams believes that is just as much about skill as it is about team unity.
“We are with each other 24/7 and everyone really gets along and gels with each other.
“We have a great belief in one another and know each player brings something unique to the team. Parry is a workhorse, Caslick has great footwork, Green is super quick – we know what each player’s strengths are and we use them to our advantage.”
Williams’ co-captain in Rio will be long-time teammate Parry who has put her heart and soul into becoming an Olympian for many years.
“It has been a massive dream of all of ours since it was announced that rugby sevens was to be an Olympic sport,” the 26-year-old from Brisbane said.
“It was amazing to hear that I’m going to be a part of the 12 selected as it is something that I’ve being working hard towards just as the rest of the team has been.
“This team has come on in leaps and bounds and it’s a credit to the coaches for getting the most out of us.”
While the side heads to Rio as the tournament favourites they know that will count for nothing once the first whistle is blown at Deodoro Stadium.
“The tournament in Rio is about who is the best on the day and not who has gone the best all season,” Parry added.
“It’s a whole different ball game in Rio with the competition being across three days instead of two which should ensure a more exciting style of rugby as we have a little bit more time to recover.
“It will be a massive challenge and a lot will depend on the rub of the green in Rio.”
That challenge is made all the more easier with the depth of talent in the Australian back line with Emilee Cherry, Ellia Green and Emma Tonegato all finishing in the top six in the World Series try scoring charts for the 2015/16 season.
Cherry won the 2014 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year award and is pumped to be heading to Rio.
“We got our uniform the other day and every time you look at it you get a bit of a buzz,” said the superstar from Roma, Queensland.
“Five years ago I never thought I’d be in this position. The Olympic Games is the icing on the cake, the pinnacle of world sport, and it’s crazy to think that in a few weeks we’ll be competing for Australia in Rio with the whole world watching.”
The sport’s inclusion in the Olympic program has seen significant growth both in Australia and around the world and Cherry hopes that the team’s performances in Rio can help inspire the next generation of rugby sevens stars.
“Just in the last year or two leading up to the Olympics the profile of sevens has definitely grown at home and globally.
“The Olympics will be a great platform to encourage the next stars of the sport and we can show them what they will have to look forward to in the future.”
The women’s rugby sevens competition kicks off on Day 1 of Olympic competition (August 6) and runs through to Day 3 (August 8). Australia will head to Rio as top seeds and will play the USA, Fiji and Colombia in Pool A.
While rugby sevens makes its debut in Rio the 15-man format of the game was a men’s only competition at four Games. It was last played in 1924 with Australasia winning gold at the London 1908 Games.
Women’s Rugby Sevens Section of the 2016 Australian Olympic Team
Nicole Beck (28), Born: Bulli, NSW. Hometown: Bulli, NSW 2516
Charlotte Caslick (21), Born: Brisbane. Hometown: Corinda, QLD 4075
Emilee Cherry (23), Born: Roma, QLD. Toowoomba, QLD 4350
Chloe Dalton (23), Born: Singapore. Mona Vale, NSW 2103
Gemma Etheridge (29), Born: Armidale, NSW. Toowoomba, QLD 4350
Ellia Green (23), Born: Suva, Fiji. Hometown: Dee Why, NSW 2099
Shannon Parry (26), Born: Brisbane. Hometown: Gumdale, QLD 4154
Evania Pelite (21), Born: Brisbane. Hometown: Deception Bay, QLD 4508
Alicia Quirk (24), Born: Wagga Wagga, NSW. Hometown: Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650
Emma Tonegato (21), Born: Wollongong, NSW. Hometown: Narrabeen, NSW 2101
Amy Turner (32), Born: Tokoroa, NZ. Hometown: Newport, NSW 2106
Sharni Williams (28), Born: Batlow, NSW. Hometown: Canberra 2601