Central Coast Sevens unearths Aussie gems

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Aussie Sevens came away with the top prizes to kick off their 2016-17 season, but it was the performances of two cross-code superstars that sent ominous signs to the Aussie women's competition.

Both Australian women’s sides made final, with the Aussie Pearls Green beating the Aussie Pearls Gold 40-19 for the title.

Their experienced leaders stood out, with Shannon Parry and Sharni Williams both dominating on the ball and Alicia Quirk, Emilee Cherry and Charlotte Caslick all starring, but coach Tim Walsh said their success was just one part of their goals for the tournament.

The actual gold medal match flew by. Photo; Getty images‘We had three layers of objectives - one was for the Rio girls to get some game time before Dubai, the next layer was about a couple of girls putting their hands up for selection for Dubai and the potential of renewing their contracts,” he said.

“The third level was the development players coming through, showing their  point of difference and their willingness to be Australian women's Sevens players.

“Some of the girls more nervous in that one than running out in an Olympic final and it was good to see how other teams might shut down our star players and what their weaknesses are.”

Two teenagers - Emma Sykes and Hannah Southwell - pushed their credentials in the tournament, with Sykes scoring a cup final hat-trick, while current squad members including Mahalia Murphy and Georgie Friedrichs also took important steps in the competition.

Both Sykes and Southwell have been likened to dual international Ellyse Perry, such is their talent at a number of different sports and with the pair about to turn 18, their odds of being added to the Sevens contracted squad have been improved.

While they impressed on the Central Coast, Walsh was quick to say they wouldn't be handing out contracts to any woman unless they were truly ready.

The men’s side - nicknamed the Thunderbolts - beat out Fijian side Uluinakau 24-21 to claim the title, but it was the depth they showed that impressed coach Andy Friend the most.

With a high turnover in the squad, the competition was a critical chance for some of the development players to grab the attention of Friend.

After winning one of their three pool games, the development team battled through their ball semi-final, coming back from 17 points down to win their semi-final and ultimately claim that division.

Ed Jenkins will captain the side. Photo: Getty ImagesCaptain Ed Jenkins’ tournament was ended prematurely, after a head knock, but it was the form of forward Sam Myers that impressed Friend.

Myers missed out on the Rio Olympic squad in August, after a poorly-timed ankle injury, but the forward is more motivated than ever to show his quality.

“He played some tournaments where he was in the top seven players in the tournament but then there was other tournaments where he didn’t really,” he said.

“Sam’s a world class player what he needs to do is keep doing that and he’s showed us that he can.”

Australia’s women’s and men’s teams will take a different tact into the Oceania Sevens tournament, with the men looking at youth, while the women will field a full-strength team for the November 11-12 competition in Fiji.