As 2016 ticks down, rugby.com.au is looking back at some of the biggest moments and storylines of the Australian rugby year.
Australia’s golden Sevens
In a disappointing year for Australian rugby in many sectors, there was one shining, and dare we say golden, light for the code in 2016.
Australia’s women’s sevens made history by claiming the first Olympic Sevens gold medal in Rio, capping off a stellar 2015-16 season for the champion team.
The women’s sevens program was centralised in 2013, with the side the first full-time women’s professional team of any code in Australia.
That early move paid dividends just three years later as the team, made up of many rugby newcomers, stood atop the podium in Deodoro having defeated New Zealand in the Rio final.
Their win seemed almost inevitable for outsiders, who had watched the team claim the opening three World Series tournaments to kick off their season and take the overall trophy off the Kiwis for the first time since its 2012 inception.
Heading into Rio, the women were short favourites, but adamant they would be keeping their heads down until their main mission was finally done.
They had a scare against the USA during their Olympic quest, one that gave them a timely check on any possibility of getting ahead of themselves.
It was in that game that scrumhalf Charlotte Caslick developed a cult following, pulling off a brutal tackle, before standing up and flicking her pigtail off her shoulder.
A contrast of femininity and strength that these women, and so many of their counterparts, possess, it became a symbol for female athletes across the world as they continue to shatter stereotypes and perceptions and pave the way for today’s young girls to follow.
It is in fact their off-field personas that have won them even more fans, refreshingly authentic speaking to media and in touch with their local communities and admirers.
Since that win, the awards have simply kept on coming for the women’s sevens, most recently claiming Team of the Year at the AIS’s ASPA ceremony last week.
Some have had tournament trophies and best player medals named after them, many have received keys to their home cities and towns and all are regular headline attractions and local training sessions.
A reward for years of work from players and coaches alike, this team’s gold medal will hopefully spark women’s rugby for years to come.
Take a look at how the rest of the countdown played out