Olympic qualification beginning to sink in for Sevens

by RUGBY.com.au staff

It wasn’t until the flight attendant said it out loud that Tom Cusack felt the reality of Olympic qualification sinking in.

After finishing just outside the automatic qualifying spots after the World Series, Australia’s qualification journey stretched just that little bit longer but a win in the weekend’s Oceania Regional Qualifier sealed their spot.

“To me it really hasn’t sunk in,” he said.

“The first real sign of it was when the hostess on the plane said, ‘Congratulations to the Aussie sevens team for qualifying for Rio’,” he said.

“That’s when you first realise this is one of your childhood dreams that you are actually able to fulfill.

The overwhelming feeling through the squad was one of relief, when they finally secured their spot for Rio, after a dominant 50-0 win over Tonga in the tournament final.

“The boys performed well and it’s a massive relief for the whole squad,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of pressure on us for a fair while since we didn’t qualify through the first stages but now that we’ve done that we feel very happy.”

A number of Wallabies have been mooted for potential Olympics sevens spots and Cusack said the potential competition for spots was healthy for the side.

“There’s a lot of excitement around the squad the last few months and Tim Walsh said before he chose the Oceania side there was a lot of selection headaches which he had to deal with,” he said.

“That’s good for the squad, it’s good for team morale, it’s good to bring the best out of everyone.

“I think it’s more exciting for myself and for the boys to want it that much more but it’s definitely healthy to have that much competition.”

One of the veterans of the side, James Stannard, has seen sevens progress to this point and said it was a great reward for many of the guys who have developed in the sport.

“There’s been guys in the program like Ed Jenkins and Jesse Parahi even that’s been there for years and through the tough times,” he said.

“It’s especially rewarding for the new guys coming through (as well) and it could be a stepping stone for them to move on after to Super Rugby.”

Australia’s ability to punish teams from their restarts proved a damaging weapon in the tournament and as one of the team’s kickers, Stannard plays a vital role in that.

The 32-year-old said it was something they hoped to build on ahead of the Rio Olympics.

“I think it’s the guys that you’re kicking to that work hard and get those restarts for you and the guys around you,” he said.

“It’s very underrated I think but we take it seriously and it’s an attacking weapon for us.”