Hold Back the River an all access journey to Olympic gold

by Sam Phillips

Hold Back the River is multi faceted in its meaning to the Aussie Women's Sevens squad but Tim Walsh will always remember the way his team belted the song out moments before winning gold.

The James Bay song, which became the team's anthem at the Olympics, is the title for the RUGBY.com.au and Onion Media series which follows the squad's journey from relative unknowns to Olympic Gold Medallists.

"That was the song that was pretty heavy in our time in Rio and before the game - before the final - we were delayed for about 10 minutes," Walsh told RUGBY.com.au.

"We always play our team song - which has been going on for years - but Hold Back the River was pretty much the song before the last song and it was belted out by the whole team and staff.

"It was huge, it was incredible.The moment Australia were crowned Women's Sevens Olympic champions. Photo: Getty Images"Then post game, with all gold medals around the necks and the euphoria, we cranked up the song again.

"It was our anthem for the Olympics."

The documentary is chock full of before seen footage, interviews and reaction to a journey which culminated in gold in Rio, a moment which catapulted Women's Sevens into the national discourse.

The majority of the footage used in the film was shot by Walsh, who started capturing vision as a motivational with the Olympics in his sights.

"I filmed the footage for five years in anticipation to use it as a motivator before Rio, to see what we have gone through," he said.

"I was interviewing the girls every couple of months, a few different times about what they were feeling and when I named the team for Rio, we played it at the announcement - a 40 minute one that I did myself.

"About two years before Rio I thought this has got some leverage in it - some commercial value - to make an actual documentary.

"Then we did it, we won the gold medal and then it came to life - we had a real point to celebrate.

"So I spoke to Adam Freier at the ARU and we brought in Onion Media, who started to put it together.

"We anchored it to the Sydney Sevens, got some professional footage of training, broadcasting and some further interviews and now it's all coming together, which is pretty exciting."

Walsh has always considered himself a handy hobby filmmaker and the squad embraced the concept after a pre-tournament pump up video in Dubai spurned them on to a Cup win.

"When we were on tour in the early days there wasn't any media or anything like that so I just used to do my own interviews and stuff like that to promote the girls to try and raise some awareness for what we were doing," Walsh said.

"It grew into that and we have this pump up video which we did in Dubai four years ago and we went out and won the tournament so we though alright, we should do that again.

"Then the girls became more demanding, they wanted more and more of these pump ups.Charlotte Caslick and Sharni Williams smile for the camera ahead of the Sydney Sevens. Photo: Getty Images"We used to do it at the jersey presentations and on the morning before the quarter final we would do one of the day before."

The final result is a compelling, emotion fuelled six episode series that features towering highs and some heartbreaking lows.

"It's a story within itself," Walsh said.

"It's a women's sport, first time at the Olympics, a bunch of athletes that had very little to no rugby experience.

"It then crossed over to something that rebranded women's rugby and created a different genre in women's contact sport.Hold Back the River will take viewers behind the scenes of the Sydney Sevens campaign. Photo: Getty Images"Then you get the elite side of it, the world class athletes and Olympic gold medallists.

"What sort of choices they make to get there, the preparation to get there, getting the team on the same page and fighting for each other to get there.

"It is multi levelled so hopefully it can resonate with not only the rugby community but with women, sport lovers and rugby lovers.

"To motivate and to leverage the growth of the Australian Women's Sevens program and Women's Sevens around the world.

"I just had the best five years with this group of people and that's the number one thing.

"I'm just really excited to watch it and I really hope the players - they made it, they embraced it so I really hope they can enjoy it - whether it be now or in 50 years time, their family, friends and kids can watch it and experience and enjoy that."

Hold Back the River is a joint venture series between RUGBY.com.au Films and Onion Media. Coming soon.