Holland on track for Rio Olympic Games

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Australian Sevens star Lewis Holland has made it through his first match since an ankle injury, as Olympic selection nears.

The Aussie men are taking on Japan in a six-match series that mimics the game timing and challenges they will face in Rio, off the back of a physically gruelling Darwin camp.

Coach Andy Friend surprised his charges with some different tactics in the matches, pulling a player off as if they had been given a red card and throwing a shock delay into the schedule.

Holland made it through the opening day, his first matches, in his first tournament since Hong Kong, as did  Nick Malouf, who was thought to have ruptured his ACL for the second time earlier this year.

Malouf’s Olympic comeback continued against Japan, with the forward scoring a double in the second match of the opening day.

Lewis Holland made it through unscathed. Photo: Getty ImagesComing out of that Darwin camp, Friend said he had seen immediate improvement in his side, who finished fourth in this year’s World Series.

“We talk about perceived levels of ability and real level of ability,” he said.

“I don't think these boys have ever hit their perceived level, let alone their real level.

“Now I think they're beyond their perceived and they're starting to hit the real level of what they can do and can achieve and that's what an Olympic year's all about .”

As for which players will have that chance, Friend said he had some tricky decisions to make.

“What's pleasing here is that the fellas that we're giving opportunities to, they're making it hard for us to leave them out,” he said.

“There needs to be really clear explanation to players about why they've missed it and just to keep their heads up and keep pushing because you never know.

“It’s a contact sport, you may be back so keep striving, keep fighting.”

Teams around the world have been finalising their teams in recent days, with the most notable omission that of former NRL star Jarryd Hayne from the Fiji side, though Friend said that was no surprise.

The Men's Sevens are finalising their Rio prep. Photo: ARU MediaFriend found himself in a similar situation to Fiji coach Ben Ryan when it came to Quade Cooper’s potential Olympic selection and said their omissions should send a positive message to career Sevens players.

“When the intensity of the game gets to a [certain] level, which is what the Olympics is going to be about, it’s the ones who've played the game longer that make the right decisions,” he said.

“And it's not the other boys' fault, they just haven't had time.

“I think it's a real credit to those players that have taken that punt four years ago, three years ago, two years ago and said, ‘No, Sevens is what I want to do,' and they'll reap the rewards of that.”

The men’s and women’s Sevens teams for the Olympics will be announced on Thursday morning.