Sykes ready to make leap 12 months on

by Sam Phillips

The Oceania Sevens was where it all began for Emma Sykes so the rising star is thrilled to be back at the spiritual home of Sevens.

Sykes, 19, is a familiar face for those that watched the Aon Uni 7s, having steered University of Queensland to their clean sweep of the inaugural season, but it was only this time last year that she got her first crack with the Aussie Women's Sevens side.

So to be back in Suva, a place Sykes holds close to her heart, marks a momentous occasion for the burgeoning playmaker.

"This is where I made my official debut and it's an amazing place to do it," Sykes told Sykes is eager to make her mark on the world stage. Photo: Getty Images"To be able to come back here the following year, it definitely holds a place in my heart."

Sykes was part of the team that cruised to the Oceania Sevens crown 12 months ago but things will be tougher this time round, with New Zealand also making the trip to play in the tournament as part of the preparation for the World Series opener in Dubai on December 1.

On a personal front, she will be using the tournament as a vehicle to more time on the big stage in three weeks time.

"I know that I still have a long way to go but I'm happy that I'm headed in the right direction," Sykes said.

"Leading into Dubai I want to be able to perform at a World Series level and standard.

"(I'm) hoping to be able to make that team and show everyone what I can do in the World Series."

This will be the last chance Walsh gets to test the mettle of his squad prior to Dubai and he said it was the perfect lead up to the real deal.

"It's fantastic - in Oceania we have three out of the four best teams in the world - so to have them now play at Oceania altogether is pretty special," Walsh said.

"To do it at the spiritual home of Sevens - Fiji - is great.

"It's the perfect prep leading into Dubai."

Walsh has named Page McGregor and Lauren Brown as debutants and he said that was reward for a journey through the grades over the past 12 months.

"It's always good to give a debut to someone who deserves it and to see them graduate through youth stuff and then to get to Aon, it's really pleasing," he said.

"I'm looking forward to seeing them progress and take the first steps in their international career."

There's also some exciting news for the Aussie Men's Sevens side, with Sam Croke signing a new contract.

The Randwick product had two years in the Australian U20s set up - 2014 and 2015 - and has now committed his future to coach Andy Friend's side until August 2018.

The Oceania Sevens kick off at 9am AEDT on Friday in Suva, streamed LIVE on the Oceania Rugby Facebook page.