After a history-making victory in Rio yesterday morning where the Australian Women’s Sevens triumphed over arch rivals New Zealand to claim the first ever Rugby Sevens Olympic gold medal, Australian Rugby Union (ARU) CEO Bill Pulver has announced new Rugby Sevens pathways that will allow other young Australians to follow in their footsteps.
“Yesterday our Australian Women’s Sevens team became heroes for thousands of young girls and boys across the nation who will dream of growing up and playing Rugby in the Olympics, just like them,” he said.
“When we centralised our national women’s and men’s programs and made them full-time athletes, we made an investment in their future and have subsequently seen them blossom as players and as role models.
“On the back of their success, we will open up new Sevens pathways in schools, clubs and universities around the country so that more young girls and boys than ever before will have the chance to work towards their dream of representing their country at the Olympic Games.”
A high-performance women’s university Sevens series, run in partnership with Australian University Sport (AUS), will be launched in 2017. Teams will be comprised of university students alongside marquee players expected to be drafted from the Australian Sevens squads and existing state-based development squads.
AUS President Deidre Anderson said: "This competition could genuinely change the face of women's sport, along with the role of university sport in the Australian sporting landscape. We are excited by the potential that it offers to raise the profile of our female athletes."
Ben Whitaker, ARU General Manager of High Performance said: “The women’s university Sevens series will fill a gap in the existing women’s Sevens pathway. It will be an elite domestic competition with a national footprint, which will act as a stepping stone towards national selection.
“With more regular training and more representative-level games available, the next generation of sevens stars will be able to refine their skills and push for selection in the full-time national squad.”
Universities who wish to express their interest in the women’s university Sevens series program should contact ARU Logistics and Administration Manager, Lina Caccamo on Lina.Caccamo@rugby.com.au or 02 8005 5634. (A similar men’s university Sevens program is expected to be launched in 2018.)
For high school students, new girls’ Sevens programs are being piloted in the rugby heartlands of QLD and NSW, with other states to follow.
In primary schools, students, teachers and parents are encouraged to sign up their school to participate in ‘Game On’ – a five-week national primary schools program teaching young girls and boys the basics of Rugby in a non-contact format. Last year, ‘Game On’ introduced 22,000 students across Australia to rugby, half of which were female.
Participation in women’s Sevens is already growing rapidly worldwide, and increased by 33% in Australia last year. With increasing female participation a core part of Australian Rugby’s strategic vison, the ARU will harness existing momentum around the game to develop a sustainable pipeline of Australian Rugby Olympians.
ARU CEO Bill Pulver said: "When IOC President Jacques Rogge announced in 2009 that Sevens would feature at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the rugby community was thrilled. It represented a major milestone for our sport, and the opportunity to showcase our game and our sport's values to the biggest audience in the world.
"For our women's team to have already achieved such success is a testament to the hard work and effort they have put into the program. Sevens demands unique levels of skill, speed, physicality, fitness and mental tenacity, which cannot be achieved without incredible hard work and dedication. Our sevens players are fantastic role models and ambassadors for our country, and as a nation, we couldn't be prouder."
Photo: Joe Armao/Getty