It was only 18 months ago that Aussie Sevens’ Tim Anstee was playing rugby in front of a handful of family and friends.
Running around for Eastwood’s second grade colts, Anstee was as surprised as anyone when the call from Sevens coach Andy Friend came.
A three-minute hat-trick at his maiden Sydney Sevens in February showed his potential, and just eight months later, the 20-year-old found himself with his hands on Australia’s first silverware since 2012, at the Oktoberfest 7s.
The throbbing atmosphere in Munich far removed from the local grounds he frequented last year, and Anstee still can’t quite comprehend how he found himself here.
“Two years ago I was still at school, I didn’t think it would be a possibility,” he said.
“I’ve from playing colts in front of basically just our parents and a few friends.
“Massive and it should give a lot of kids something to aspire to, I hope it shows that nothing’s out of reach, these things can happen pretty quickly.”
Anstee is coming into the program as Sevens really begins to gain legitimacy as an alternative career path to XVs.
Munich was one of a handful of newly minted invitational tournaments this year, outside of the 10-leg world series, bringing the top 12 nations together more often.
The Olympics still acts as the ultimate Sevens carrot, but where in 2016 there were some high-profile form flippers, 2020 looms as being a tournament that tests career Sevens players against each other.
A number of last year’s Olympians have landed in Super Rugby including Cam Clark and Henry Hutchison, and there is sure to be more, but Anstee said the mentality was definitely changing.
“Young rugby players are seeing it as an alternative, pick one or the other, it’s not just a pathway, there are a lot more opportunities,” he said.
“I think it’s an exciting brand of rugby, a lot of people still love XVs but Sevens has that more exciting element, there’s always plenty of tries scored and heaps of open space.
“I think people are drawn to it and it’s picking up momentum.”
Anstee hasn’t closed the door on his own move to XVs down the track, but that would be down a very long road, still enjoying the chance to see places he would never otherwise visit and keen to repay the faith Friend has shown in him.
“Growing up I always wanted to play XVs but Sevens has given me my opportunity and I’m enjoying it,” he said.
“You get to play in front of big crowds and for the near future at least I want to stick firm to sevens.”
The next test for Anstee will be building on a breakout year, and it’s one he’s keen to embrace.
“Last year I didn’t even expect to play so many tournaments and it’s given me that belief, going into a new season.
“I want to try out a few new things and really put what we’ve been doing in training into practice.”
Australia kicks off its World Series campaign on December 1 in Dubai.
The 2018 Sydney Sevens runs from January 26-28, showcasing the best men’s and women’s sevens players from across the globe. Buy tickets here.