Sky the limit for 'special' Longbottom

by Sam Phillips

This time 12 months ago, Australian Men's Sevens coach Andy Friend had never heard of Maurice Longbottom.

It was this upcoming weekend, at the National Sevens Championship, that Friend first laid eyes on the 24-year-old and his unique talent.

Longbottom was playing just his second Sevens tournament for the "Lloydies" (Lloyd McDermott Development Team) at the nationals and Friend recalls seeing a pocket rocket carving up from afar.

"We went down to watch all the men perform for the different teams and he was a standout for the Lloydies," Friend said.

"You could just see his speed and his electricity.

"I was watching from afar and saw this bloke cut through a few.

"I went and had a closer look and in talking to Jarred Hodges - who is now our assistant coach but he was their coach on the day - he said what a tremendous character he was too.

"We got him in, had a closer look and he has got to where he has got to now."

Longbottom has put pen to paper on a deal that will take him through to the Tokyo Olympics.

That's testament to the enjoyment Longbottom gets out of a game he only picked up just over a year ago.

"I played league from about nine to 18 or 19 - a bit of junior rep," Longbottom said.

"My cousin said to me that I should come up to play Sevens for the weekend so I went up, had a tournament up there and we ended up taking it out undefeated.All smiles for Maurice Longbottom. Photo: Rugby Australia Media"I got player of the tournament and then went and played for Lloydies down in Adelaide.

"Friendy was down there and asked me to come along for a couple of training camps - here I am now."

Now that he has secured his future for the next three years, Longbottom is setting his sights on team glory with a squad that he has come to love in a short amount of time.

"I just love the game and I'm absolutely loving my time here at the moment," he said.

"It's just so enjoyable.

"To come in every day with the boys and have a laugh, it's just so good.

"But when it's time to switch on everyone switches on, gets in there and gets it done - that's so rewarding at the end.

"Olympics is the big one - obviously I want to be there - Comm Games is a big one, Sydney is a big one and the World Cup is a big one.

"Not playing every weekend makes me more hungry when we get that chance to play."

To hear the hunger in Longbottom's words will please Friend, who has long said the 2017/18 season is the time winning World Series titles would become a priority.

Continuity in combinations can only get a team so far.Longbottom has played a big part in Australia's preseason success. Photo: Getty ImagesIt's talents like Longbottom that put teams over the top and Friend believes he has a player of that ilk in Longbottom.

"He set the world alight in Munich," Friend said.

"We probably thought he would but I'm not sure we knew to what extent.

"He is very special and to have him here until Tokyo is exciting for the squad.

"He's got tremendous speed, tremendous vision and tremendous skill but he's got to keep working on that.

"Knowing his character he will do that but give him three years in the program playing Sevens - if this is the start the ceiling is pretty high."

The Dubai Sevens kick off on November 31, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS.