The number sevens running around the Australian Super Rugby conference are some of the best in the world.
Renowned for being some of the toughest players in their teams, each is a player whose team mates love to play alongside. The work that these players put in every week is incredible.
Tireless work in both attack and defence makes them among the greatest athletes in each of their teams. They constantly put their bodies on the line, walking a fine line at each breakdown to give their team the edge.
Each breakaway has something that makes him unique and different from one another.
They do however have one common characteristic - they are leaders of men, who have all found themselves in formal and ‘spiritual’ leadership roles.
Hooper has come under scrutiny of late with his performances but he is still one of the best opensides in the game.
Throughout his career he has proven his incredible endurance, drawing on a massive engine and he played with a fearless energy. He is not one of the biggest openside flankers in the Australian conference but battles well above his playing weight. His greatest strength is being able to provide a link between backs and forwards.
His support play, ability to break the advantage line and offload have provided a new dimension to the traditional No. 7 play.
He has proven time and time again that his pace can get him, and the Waratahs, on the front foot. ‘Hoops’ is a fighter with his determination to keep his legs pumping through every tackle creating opportunities out of nothing.
He fights for every inch, puts his body on the line and is one of the best first-man supporters in the game.
Pocock is one of the top No. 7s in the world. His pilfering is unrivalled and an essential element for the Brumbies leading into the closing rounds of the Super Rugby season.
‘Poey’ has this incredible ability to create turnovers when they seem near impossible, consistently testing the limits and laws of the game, though always walking that fine line between creating an advantage or giving away a penalty. His ability to throw his body where it shouldn’t is part of what has made him an international cult figure, with a brutal physicality on the field leaving him with colourful bruises after each match.
Pocock is a guy that supporters see his team mates’ love playing with, leading the way for the troops to follow. Without his pilfering ability, the Wallabies wouldn’t be the team they were in 2015.
He’s consistently the forgotten man at Test time but Liam Gill has been by far the best Queensland Reds player in the past two seasons, despite battling injuries.
When the going gets tough he never gives an inch, always fighting till the final whistle. ‘Gilly’ has a strong turnover ability, coupled with a running game that is always dangerous.
His ability to be a link between the forwards and backs has proven to be extremely beneficial to the Reds. Although he is neither the biggest nor the fastest player, he uses all of his strength to their maximum potential. He is strong over the ball consistently creating opportunities for the Reds to counterattack.
Liam is still learning his trade and has developed his game based on Pocock and Hooper’s style of being able to pilfer while still offering support play.
Hodgson is an old school flanker and a tackling machine for the Western Force.
While he mightn’t get the recognition of some of his counterparts, he is the quintessential hard man of the Western Force’s forward pack. His longevity in such a demanding position is testament to his character and desire to represent the Force. His work at the breakdown sometimes sees him come off second best, but he wears those scars like a badge of honour.It never deters him from hitting the next ruck or being a nuisance to the other teams. He consistently creates headaches for opponents in the ruck and he is a solid breakaway who always fights till the end.
McMahon has different physical characteristics to the other opensides.
He is physically bigger and more destructive at the breakdown. He can regularly bust the first up tacklers and get in behind the gain line enabling front foot ball. McMahon’s robust nature is not only in attack but in defence as well, renowned for stopping attackers dead in their tracks.
He consistently plays with a maturity beyond his years with his go-hard attitude betraying a distinct lack of concern about what happens to his body in a game. While lacking some of the finesse of Pocock and Hooper, he is an extremely destructive player at the breakdown, the sort of player every team needs.
All the No. 7s have similar characteristics - they are fearless, extremely determined, and super fit.
They can adjust their play to suit the referee and the conditions. They have all shown that they can adjust their individual styles to best suit the team plan. Above all, they are high calibre individuals whom other players look up to and are prepared to follow.
One of my favourite things about all of these players is that they are all game changers. It is players like these that we love to play alongside. Players who never think about their body but are driven to try and gain the maximum outcome for their team. As a player you look to those players to step up at key moments throughout the game and make that vital play to create the key result.
The role of a No. 7 is determined by what the coach requires to best suit the team on any given day. If his primary role is to be a pilferer and to cause maximum disruption at the breakdown for the opposition this will limit his ability to run wide.
We saw at the World Cup Michael Cheika use both David Pocock and Michael Hooper in different roles to gain the maximum advantage for the Wallabies. Both players performed at the highest level using their unique skill set.
Both had the ability to change their game for the team. I can’t see why they couldn’t do it again this year.
Shannon Parry is a Wallaroo and Australian Women's Sevens player from Queensland, with a Bachelor in Education from Griffith University, Brisbane.
The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ARU.