Parahi ready for long-awaited return

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

When Jesse Parahi lists off his injury history, it sounds like a rendition of ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’.

The Sevens stalwart hasn’t played a World Series event since December 2016, with a series of unfortunate setbacks keeping him out of action since then, but has been named to play in the 2017 Sydney 7s.

“Ankle, two facial fractures, a knee, hammy, back and there was one other all in the space of about two years,” he recalled on Tuesday. 

“It’s been a bit of a tough run but I’m pumped to be back.”

It hasn’t been an easy stint on the sidelines for the workhorse, but the ever-optimistic Parahi believes his return is coming at the perfect time.

"There were definitely times where things were getting a bit tough and I've just had a little baby girl so that made things a little bit tougher with less sleep.

“I've always dreamed of getting back for Sydney and Comm games and I'm hoping to kick on to the Olympics so that's my goal and that's what's been keeping me ticking along.”

Jesse Parahi in action with the Aussie Sevens on Tuesday. Photo: Rugby AustraliaIt was watching on at the 2016 Sydney 7s, when contracted to the NRL’s Wests Tigers, that gave Parahi the fire to return to Sevens and he fell agonisingly short of playing on home soil last year, after a late injury.

It will hopefully be third time lucky for Parahi at this weekend’s tournament, where he will be one of just a handful of senior heads in a developing side, after the retirement of former skipper Ed Jenkins.

Australia has performed above expectations in the past two tournaments, reaching the semi-final and final in the first two years, and coach Andy Friend said they had high expectations.

“Last year they had a very young side and you could've been excused for thinking we might not  done as well as we did but the boys definitely lifted,” he said.

“It probably is an expectation now that we're going to do that again.

“I think any time you get the chance to play in front of family and friends and for us we travel the world (and) you see the Aussie flag and people cheering you on but here you've got at least three-quarters of the stadium that’s going to cheer you on, (and it) definitely lifts the boys.”

Success in the three big tournaments of this year - Sydney, the Commonwealth Games and July’s World Cup - is critical for the Aussies and Friend, with the team not tasting cup success since 2012.

Andy Friend took over the Aussie 7s men's team in 2016. Photo: Rugby AustraliaFriend’s contract is up in July and though he is keen to keep the reins until at least Tokyo 2020, he admitted on Tuesday that the side needed to win and win soon.

“I've expressed my desire to stay with this team but I'm fully aware I'm in an environment that demands results,” he said.

“This team hasn't won a World Series tournament or a Comm Games or world cup since 2012.

“We need to get wins, we know that, we're very aware of that.

“Every time we go out there for an tournament, that's what we're trying to do.

“If it happens, fantastic. If it doesn't, the powers to be will sort that out.”

The 2018 Sydney 7s kicks off on Friday January 26, running until Sunday January 28. Buy tickets here.