Following last weekend's National Youth Sevens Championships at the Sydney Academy of Sport Geraint John and Tim Walsh have both enviable and unenviable decisions to make as the Head Coaches of the national side.
Enviable as it soon became abundantly clear that there was a plethora of talent among the 240 players taking part that would do the Australian jersey proud at the 2015 Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa.
Unenviable as how do John and Walsh pick a final squad of just 12 come the time of selection for the Youth Commonwealth Games when they could easily take double that number?
The Australian Rugby Union’s Sevens talent development and national teams program is valuably supported by the Australian Commonwealth Games Association’s (ACGA) 2015 NextGEN AUSComGames Squad program. This program assists with the next generation of national Rugby Sevens stars to attend and achieve at the 2018 and 2022 Commonwealth Games and John was keen to let all players know that this is a particularly exciting time for the sport in Australia.
John said: "Tim Walsh and I had a chat with the players and coaches on the Friday evening before the tournament and we talked about what the program was all about, the cities they could go to if they wanted to choose Sevens as a career. Sometimes players see Sevens as a pathway but it can be a career. You have the World Series, Commonwealth Games, Olympic Games, the Sevens World Cup, the Pacific Games and for the players that played last weekend it was a real opportunity for them to put their hand up for selection for the 2015 Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa. The hardest part is going to be to only pick 12!
"From a playing perspective, there is a lot of talent out there and that is a real plus for the future of the Sevens program. Not only in the Men’s program but the Women’s program as well – and that was across all teams, not just those that eventually won the competition. There were players from all over the country that showed glimpses that they understood the game of Sevens. What was most pleasing is that the players have watched Sevens, played Sevens and have been coached Sevens. It augurs well for the future."
Despite New South Wales teams winning both competitions during the National Youth Sevens Championships, Qantas Australian Women's Sevens Head Coach Tim Walsh was impressed with the level of depth across all of the competing teams.
"Last weekend, it wasn’t just two teams dominating, all the teams competing were competing at a high level. Their aggression and ability around the ruck and maul was outstanding so it’s very promising for the future of Women’s Rugby.
“Anyone watching could see there were some very good performances out there, some girls had a real point of difference and have a real chance of a career in Rugby Sevens. I did make special mention during the presentation ceremony of Amber Pilley of Queensland who was a Youth Olympian last year. Amber was very good and aggressive, turning over two or three balls each game. The leadership and aggression of someone like Samantha Maxwell was outstanding – it reminded me a young Shannon Parry."
Walsh added: “It’s going to be a very tough decision for myself and the selectors to sit down and narrow it down to an initial squad of 24. But that’s a positive and a real challenge.”
John's focus has now turned to the all-age National Sevens Championships next weekend.
“The aim of next weekend is to see what players are out there and to see if there is any talent out there that can put pressure on the national contracted players. For me, it is about identifying talent for the future but also are there any players that can step up to the national team now? We’re all looking forward to next weekend."
With the support of the state unions, the ARU has developed and invested in National Sevens Championships as a crucial part of the Sevens pathway in Australia.