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By ARU Media Unit
Taleena Simon has become the first Aboriginal woman to receive a full time professional contract in Australia’s Sevens program.
Hailing from Redfern in Sydney’s Inner West, Simon said she was excited to now be a professional athlete.
“It’s a dream come true really, to have the opportunity to represent my country on the global stage is quite an honour.”
“I am so proud to be a part of the Australian Women’s Sevens squad and with Rugby now in the Olympic program from 2016, it really is an exciting time to play Sevens.”
The 21 year old winger has been an impressive force for a few years. She first started taking part in the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team (LMRDT) Ella Sevens events in 2010, with her first tournament occurring in Coffs Harbour.
Simon’s rise came through playing in the Redfern Sevens side at the Ella Sevens before being picked up for in the LMRDT National Indigenous Sevens team to play at the National Women’s Sevens Championship in Canberra in 2012.
Injury prevented Simon’s participation in the 2013 National Championships but she was able to make a return to the tournament in 2014.
Simon has also been a representative in the Tribe Sevens side, an invitational team that has competed in Sevens tournaments in England and the Netherlands.
Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens Coach Tim Walsh was excited about Taleena’s potential.
"Quiet and unassuming Taleena has trained, performed and smiled her way through months of training.
“She turned every opportunity into a winner and thoroughly deserves her contract with the Australian Women's Sevens team.
“She displays electric speed, great awareness and a genuine love for the game - all necessities to be a part of this squad".
The signing of Simon comes off the back of a great period of success for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander athletes with Rugby. Caitlin Moran and Eva Carpani were both named in the Australian Youth Rugby Sevens Olympic side that will travel to Nanjing, China next month.
Moran and Carpani’s selection is the result of a joint effort between the ARU and the LMRDT with the support of the Federal and Northern Territory Governments to expand Rugby participation in the Northern Territory.
Australian came second in the IRB Sevens World Series in 2013-2014 and will be looking to go one better when the 2014-2015 series commences in Dubai in November.
Qantas Australian Rugby Sevens stars Emilee Cherry and Cameron Clark have been rewarded for their stellar performances throughout their respective 2013/14 seasons after picking up three awards between them at the 2014 John Eales Medal in Sydney.