Launceston Uni 7s: Five things we learned

Uni 7s
by Jill Scanlon

The inaugural Aon Uni7s opening tournament has been run and won in Launceston, with the first spoils going to the University of Queensland.

So, what did we learn from the first look at a national Women’s Sevens competition?

Emerging talent stake their claim

The most immediate and obvious outcome of the two-day tournament, if you took the opportunity to sit back and enjoy the action, was the amount of ‘untapped’ local talent running around the park across all eight university teams.

UQ Captain Mackenzie Sadler was just one who led the pack of impressive performers all the way to the finish line.

Others of note were Lauren Murty (UTAS), Bo Vette-Welsh (Macquarie), Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea (Griffith) and Lily Dick (UQ) not to mention the likes of Brydie Parker (UNE) and Katie Harrison (Macquarie).

Of course, this was the hope and the goal of the Uni7s initiative.

It was backed strongly, primarily for this reason, by the Australian Sevens management looking to build depth through the creation of a sustainable pathway for women wanting to play rugby.

The early glimpse of the talent emerging from all teams has whet the appetite and set the benchmark for the three remaining tournaments in the series.

Too early to call

While the teams from Queensland looked in control of the first tournament – all three making it to the final four spots – it was only the opening round of the four-leg series and all eight squads will have taken plenty from the opening leg.

Some will certainly have emerged from the weekend knowing they still have work to do, with the learning curve for many of the young and less experienced players being invaluable.

Adelaide and Tasmania, being the non-traditional rugby states, used a great deal of untested new talent, but had moments across the two days which underlined their determination to challenge the more experienced opposition.

The same can be said for the coaches too as this is a new format for some and a new level of intensity for all.

Rugby veterans such as James Stannard and Luke Burgess know how to play the game but the sideline management role is a very different beast.

Aussie Sevens stars cannot be underestimated

The Olympic champions being a part of this endeavour – both on and off the field – was always going to be a key factor in its success and round one showed why.

The calibre of these women playing alongside much less experienced players not only added to the quality of the play in each game but worked as a mentoring tool with the impact of their leadership apparent to all who watched.

For those who did not get their chance on the field in Tasmania, joining the half-time huddles and being a part of the festivities through promotional and media support roles also added an extra element to the event.

While the likes of Emma Tonegato (Adelaide) and Chloe Dalton (Macquarie) were unavailable for round one due to injury, they are very likely starters for the second round in a fortnight in Sydney.

Then there were the stars that were unavailable at the weekend.

Sharni Williams and Mahalia Murphy will both be ready to slot in for University of Canberra and University of Adelaide, respectively, once they return from an impressive XVs campaign with the Wallaroos at the Women’s World Cup in Ireland.

Sneak peek at the bigger picture

The presence and participation of the Aussie Sevens coaching and high performance chiefs also added something extra to the opening round.

National coach Tim Walsh who, along with High Performance manager Scott Bowen, is charged with the job of building on the successful national Sevens program moving forward, were in the thick of the things.

They watched all 20 games, commentated as part of the team and provided viewers valuable insight into what Walsh is looking for in scouting for future Australian stars.

He had made clear that one of his own main objectives from this Uni7s initiative would be the identification of untapped talent and as the fixture played out, he must have felt like the proverbial kid in the candy store.

Location, location, location

Some may have questioned the opening round location being as far south as the series will venture all year but it was in fact a smart exercise in the dipping of toes into the water to test the temperature of support for the Uni7s concept.

With the remaining three rounds in more familiar rugby territory, the success and support shown in the opening round can only have piqued the interest within the more traditional rugby communities of NSW and Queensland.

The second tournament kicks off in a fortnight at Macquarie University in the heartland of Sydney Rays country and with the massive growth in community support shown to local rugby fixtures in recent weeks, the Uni7s organisers can only be rubbing their hands together in anticipation of a healthy reception at the venues.