The inaugural Aon Women’s University Sevens Series was officially launched at Macquarie University in Sydney yesterday, hailing the evolution of women’s rugby sevens in Australia with the five-week tournament to kick off on 25 August.
Off the back of Australia’s gold medal success at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, women and young girls have been flocking to rugby sevens right across the country to join one of the fastest growing women’s sports worldwide.
Australian Rugby Union (ARU) CEO Bill Pulver and members of Australia’s gold medal winning side, alongside the next generation of Aussie sevens players, launched the competition with their respective university teams in Sydney today.
The Australian Women’s Sevens squad have been distributed amongst the eight teams, alongside the next generation of rugby talent who are embracing the possibility of realising their Olympic dream.
In an Australian sporting first, the squads themselves will be made up of these Aussie7s representatives, complemented with elite rugby players from each region and elite student-athletes from each respective university.
Australian University Sport CEO Don Knapp said the Series is part of a nationwide shift to create elite sporting pathways for female student-athletes.
"This collaborative initiative between Australian University Sport, competing universities and the Australian Rugby Union provides elite student-athletes with a ground-breaking pathway to the Olympic and Commonwealth Games podia, while at the same time preparing them for a career beyond sport through dual career education while at university,” Mr Knapp said.
"This program is a great example of multiple partners working together to achieve shared, organisational aims; the pathway this program creates for elite female athletes in rugby sevens is indeed exciting.”
Members of Australia’s gold medal winning Commonwealth Youth Games side will also be plying their trade in the competition as the next generation of stars put their hands up for professional contracts with the Australian Sevens squad.
The eight-team competition kicks off on Friday 25 August and includes Macquarie University, The University of Queensland, Bond University, University of Canberra, University of New England, Griffith University, University of Tasmania, and The University of Adelaide.
The tournament will be played over five weeks along the east coast from August until September with the ARU looking to expand the number of rounds and teams involved for future tournaments.
Fans will also be able to watch all the rugby sevens action LIVE on rugby.com.au with every match to be streamed, to see who is crowned the inaugural Aon Women’s University Sevens Champion.
Rounds two, three and four of the tournament will also link up with the National Rugby Championship with Macquarie University hosting the Western Sydney Rams in the Sydney derby on Sunday 10 September at 3pm AEST, Brisbane City playing the Canberra Vikings on Sunday 17 September at 1pm AEST and Queensland Country taking on Melbourne Rising at Bond University at 3pm AEST on Saturday 30 September.
ARU CEO, Bill Pulver said: “Today begins a new era of women’s rugby sevens with the launch of the Aon Women’s University Sevens Series.
“This competition will provide fantastic content for rugby fans, old and new, as well as creating a clear pathway for elite talent to compete in rugby sevens on a national stage and earn a potential professional contract in the Australian Women’s Sevens team."
“Following on from Australia’s gold medal success, our challenge has been to create opportunities for young girls and women to play our game and this competition, which we hope to expand in the coming years, goes a long way in doing that."
“The players taking part from the various universities in coming years could form part of the Australian team to represent our country at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and that is an exciting prospect for players and fans alike."
“The partnership Australian Rugby has established with Australian University Sport is unique and a first for Australian sport and we look forward to expanding this relationship as the competition grows in the coming years.”
Aon Risk Solutions Australia CEO, Lambros Lambrou said: “The launch of the Aon University 7s Series is part of our ongoing commitment to drive both diversity and an inclusive culture that empowers women to achieve their goals on and off the rugby pitch."
“We’re excited to be part of a growing movement that champions clear pathways for both women and younger girls to develop and nurture their passion for rugby."
“With this in mind, we hope this competition will further captivate the sporting public in Australia and bring the next generation of rising stars to the fore.”
2017 Aon Women’s University Sevens Series Draw
Round 1: Friday 25 August-Saturday 26 August, University of Tasmania Stadium, Launceston
Round 2: Saturday 9 September-Sunday 10 September, Macquarie University Sporting Fields, Sydney
Round 3: Saturday 16 September-Sunday 17 September, University of Queensland Fields, Brisbane
Round 4: Friday 29 September-Saturday 30 September, Bond University Rugby Field, Gold Coast
Photo Credit: Getty Images