Olympics to propel women's rugby growth

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

They’re the first rugby sevens gold medallists in history and the Australian Women’s Sevens team want their success to spark more growth in women’s rugby.

When rugby sevens was first announced as a new Olympic sport, this team didn’t exist and more than a handful of the freshly crowned Olympic champions had never played rugby.

Shannon Parry was effective in the final. Photo: Getty ImagesAs they stood in front a media pack with shiny gold medals around their neck, Parry was quick to pay tribute to coach Tim Walsh and manager Scott Bowen who made them into world beaters.

“A lot of the girls behind me had never played rugby, never tackled before (when we started),” she said.

“That’s a massive credit to our coach Tim Walsh and our manager Scott Bowen.

“They took these girls, they got people who would fit our mould and if you fit the mould you would stay on if not you would move on and that’s why we’ve got a gold medal winning team.

“Everyone’s chasing that same dream but it’s from them putting in the hard yards.”

Nicole Beck shared the golden moment with daughter, Sophie. Photo: Getty ImagesMany of the women moved away from their family to chase their Olympic dreams and their 24-17 Olympic final win justified those sacrifices, Parry said.

“It’s been a massive journey for us and to be centralised two-and-a-half years ago, it’s a credit to our management and all our supporters back home,” she said.

“It’s been a whole team effort and to be honest we couldn’t have done it without them.

“It’s just a reward for all the girls’ hard work, all the sacrifices and choices they made - people have families, partners to chase this dream and today it became a reality.”

Gemma Etheridge, who made a surprise return from a third knee reconstruction to play at the Olympics, broke down in tears when asked about her reaction.

“It’s an amazing experience and to have all the girls here - they won a gold medal for me so I’m so proud,” she said.

Walsh spoke to Network 7 after the game about the massive opportunity for women’s sevens to grow after its first Olympic outing, a sentiment his players shared.

The overwhelming feeling, though, still seemed to be disbelief, with Williams summing up the emotion post-match.

“Rugby Sevens is the fastest growing women’s sport in the world and for it to be in the Olympics and for us to be the first ever gold medallists for the Olympics for Rugby Sevens...Wow, I just said that out loud’.”

“We can’t wait to see where it goes, it’s growing in leaps and bounds."