'These Girls Are Elite': Meet The Women Playing Rugby For Australia

07/09/2015 2:42 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Warren Little via Getty Images
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 04: Emma Tonegato of Australia is congratulated by her team mates after the game against France during the IRB Women's Sevens Rugby World Series at the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens on December 4, 2014 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

What a time for Australian women’s sport.

The Southern Stars won the Ashes, the Diamonds won the Netball World Cup, the Matildas excelled in their World Cup campaign and the Opals won the Oceania Basketball Championship and are on their way to the Olympics with high hopes of adding gold to their trophy cabinet.

Is there any stopping Australian women’s teams on the sporting field?

A member of this illustrious list that tends to fly under the radar is the Australia Women’s Rugby Sevens team, currently ranked in the top three in the world. It was also the first Australian team to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Of course the ARU is hoping that with Rugby Sevens featuring in the Olympics and the women’s team a strong medal chance, the sport will gain the recognition for the exciting and athletic game it is and raise its profile on home soil.

The Aussie Sevens women do not share the prominence of other Australian teams.

It could be partly due to the fact that there is no national competition for Sevens, just state based ones involving domestic club teams.

With a global participation level of almost two million, women’s rugby is one of the fastest growing team sports in the world and Rugby Sevens will debut at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

For six months of every year the World Rugby Women's Sevens series gives the world’s best female rugby players the chance to experience elite level, high-performance competition around the world.

The current Women’s Sevens International Player of the Year (2014) is Australian Back Emilee Cherry; one of the four finalists for this year's award is her teammate Charlotte Caslick.

Australia ranked second in the world in 2014 behind New Zealand and finished third this year, just pipped by a strongly improving Canada.

But the Aussie girls still performed well finishing the six-tournament series with three second places and winning the penultimate tournament, the biggest on the series’ calendar, in London.

Coach Tim Walsh says the year ahead is a big one with the World Series followed fairly quickly by the Olympics.

He is, though, frustrated that the team is not well known by the Australian public and is often bemused by the reaction from people who say they had no idea girls could play like this.

“The awareness (needs to be) around women’s sevens, not rebranding women’s rugby, but creating the game (and) that people are actually aware these girls are a new form of elite athlete,” says Walsh.

The Australian Women’s squad is a tight-knit professional unit centrally located just north of Sydney at Narrabeen. For a group with an average age of just 21 years, this set-up has become like a second home and family to these young women and it is this environment that is proving a key factor to good performances on the field through teamwork and communication.

Of course, after a hard day on the training track, occasionally girls just want to have fun.

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