When the inaugural Aon Uni 7s Series kicks off in August, rugby fans around the country will get to watch their gold medal-winning Australian Women’s Sevens heroes in action, as the eight university teams vie for supremacy across the four tournaments.
The entire Australian Women’s Sevens squad which features gold medal stars such as Charlotte Caslick, Shannon Parry, Sharni Williams, Emilee Cherry, Alicia Quirk, Chloe Dalton and Evania Pelite will play in the Aon Uni 7s Series, with every university team to be allocated at least two members of the current Australian squad.
The Aon Uni 7s Series is the first domestic Australian Sevens competition for women, offering the nation’s best up-and-coming talent the opportunity to train and play in a high-performance environment to stake their claims for national selection. The teams will each comprise a mix of students and non-students (with 50% students being the squad minimum and no on-field quota to be employed).
Australian University Sport CEO Don Knapp said that the series was an amazing opportunity for female student athletes.
"I don't think that there is any other program that gives student athletes such an incredible opportunity," he said.
"Australian University Sport is proud to be supporting such an exciting new program, and we know we will see an incredibly strong competition between the teams."
"We hope that this will be a way that other women can get involved in the sport."
"National sporting events provide student-athletes with the opportunitity to pursue a dual education and sport pathway, with campus sporting programs proven to contribute toward higher levels of student recruitment, retention, completion and graduate employability,' Mr Knapp said.
Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens Head Coach Tim Walsh will be watching every tournament as he ramps up his search to find the next generation of Olympians. With five states and territories represented in the competition, he says the national scope of the Series should prompt female athletes from a range of sports to consider whether they could be Australia’s next Rugby Sevens star.
“Our Rio team was made up of plenty of amazing women who used to play other sports,” he said.
“If you can run fast, catch and have plenty of determination, you have the foundation to be a Rugby Sevens champion. We hope to discover plenty of new talent this year, whether they come from a rugby background or not.”
“Flying around the country to compete with and against gold medallists is an opportunity that not many athletes ever get, so I’m looking forward to see which teams and which players step up to challenge and make the most of their chance on the national stage.”
The AON Uni 7s Series kicks off at Tasmania, where the host team, led by former Wallaby Luke Burgess, will be out to prove that the island state can stand up against the heartland rugby regions.
Sydney’s Macquarie University will host the next two-day tournament, which will coincide with the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship derby clash between the Macquarie University Sydney Rays and the Western Sydney Rams, for a veritable festival of explosive running rugby.
Next up the teams will travel to the University of Queensland in Brisbane for the penultimate tournament, which will take place alongside the annual Emmanuel International Sevens.
For the all-important final tournament, the teams will again converge in Queensland at Bond University on the Gold Coast where they’ll be joined by crowds of other university athletes as the region also hosts the 2017 Australian University Games.
2017 Aon Women’s Uni 7s Series dates:
University of Tasmania Stadium, Launceston, 25-26 August
Macquarie University fields, Sydney, 9-10 September
The University of Queensland fields, Brisbane, 16-17 September
Bond University fields, Gold Coast, 29-30 September